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Talking arable with Ian Matts: There is something to be said for spring cropping in terms of pressure on workload

My opening line from last month described the wait for the workload rush, but in reality, it never materialised this spring.

Beyond establishment it has all been a lot calmer than expected considering the area of spring cropping, which although the dry conditions have done us no favours regarding emergence and yield potential, has at least kept disease significantly at bay.

 

Although I will have to wait until after harvest to fully appreciate the financial implications of the change of cropping, there is something to be said for spring cropping in terms of pressure on workload.

 

The majority of spring cereal crops have five or six clean leaves, and even though conditions have turned more unsettled now, there is very little inoculum for disease to build.

 

Any crops with outstanding sprays planned are currently on hold to see what we get in terms of rain and what this will lead to.


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Nitrogen

 

Rumours of decent milling premiums is now making me start to question my spring nitrogen rates and causing some uncertainty as to whether to apply a foliar nitrogen application.

 

I originally intended to cut back on rates expecting low yields due to the state of soils coming out of such a wet winter but having established well, the yield potential was there.

 

Following the dry spring, I am not sure how much of the applied nitrogen will have made it into the crop. Having had some rainfall recently any remaining nitrogen in the soil may be taken into the crop, but where this is utilised – building yield or protein - I am not sure. I have taken some tissue samples recently to try and get a better understanding.

 

With the gate beginning to close on a number of crops the attention is rapidly turning to harvest, and what has been described as some as one of the most challenging since World War II.

 

We will shortly be holding our pre-harvest meeting so I will need to get on with putting the material together or at least updating it from last year and adding in some extra information on coronavirus.

 

Although restrictions appear to be easing currently, who knows what will happen by harvest and whether we will have to deal with a second peak.

 

With the early release of the nitrogen price at the end of May I have made a start trying to unpick the mess of 2020 and get a sensible looking rotation going forward.

Planning

 

Once the cropping is sorted, I would normally be working on variety planning, but with so much seed sat in the shed, this decision has largely already been made. I will be sending some samples off for germination testing shortly to see what impact overwintering has had.

 

The same is largely true for nitrogen. I intend to look into switching to liquid fertiliser and having a number of tanks on site already and a quantity of bagged N in stock, this year’s circumstances have allowed me an opportunity to try on a proportion of the farm, before committing fully.

Dry

 

Unfortunately, stewardship plots have struggled in the dry conditions, and on the whole do not look as good as I would like. We are poised to rectify this; however, I am keen to see if we will get further germination now that we’ve have had some significant rainfall before making any decisions.

 

Although any newly established plots have struggled, any that were established last year or previously, appear to be doing incredibly well and are rich in flowering plants and insect life, which is great to see.

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