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Talking arable with Neil MacLeod: Direct drilled fields have retained moisture

Well what a difference a month can make in terms of the weather and my mood.
As we headed into the Easter weekend temperatures were somewhat summer-like, and with the dust blowing, field operations carried out with relative ease.

Dare I say it, but yes, we do need rain and preferably soon as recently sown crops begin to emerge.

 

Laureate spring barley was all sown in the last week of March into almost perfect, albeit cold soil conditions with pre-emergence herbicides and liquid ammonium sulphate applied just before 12mm of rain fell.

 

Early

 

What a difference to last year when we didn’t even start spring sowing until the end of April, however come harvest we recorded the best spring barley yields that the farm had ever achieved.

 

Winter oilseed rape is in early flower, however April frosts have had it looking pretty unhappy some mornings.

 

Due to the unseasonably mild February that we had, our rape is all over the place which will make pollen beetle monitoring all the more challenging in the coming weeks, but as yet we are only seeing them in small numbers, nowhere near threshold.

 

Like every year, I’m hoping that this is an insecticide application that we will not require as there are over a hundred bee hives dotted around the perimeter of our rape fields housing an army ready to work.


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Joint partnership

 

Elsewhere on the farm, my sheep have all lambed and are grazing the species rich grass.

 

Strawberries are only three weeks away from picking and potato planting is in full swing. We are in the second year of a potato growing joint venture with a local grower where we have pooled machinery, labour, storage and agronomy to benefit both parties and so far, we are pleased with the results.

 

After a mild February, but then a cold March, crops are about where I would expect at this time of year with winter barley having received it’s T1 application and winter wheat after peas not far behind. Bitterly cold easterly winds have put paid to 8 hectares of revelation second wheat on very light land with the rest of this block being my latest wheat in terms of growth stage.

 

Sown in mid-October with jockey treated seed that due to circumstances was over-yeared twice, the germination was tested and came back fine, however I should have had the vigour tested, as it’s far from fine.

 

This coinciding with the dry autumn and winter has created a significant difference in the block between the direct drilled fields which have managed to retain moisture and the minimal tilled fields which continue to struggle.

Trials

 

The T0 application of choice here has been a set of Cambridge rolls to try and improve rooting and hopefully push out another tiller followed a week later by a cocktail of trace element.

 

My yield expectations have unsurprisingly reduced for this crop, as will my spend.

 

Nitrogen applications are two thirds complete on everything apart from the oilseed rape and winter barley which are put to bed. Unfortunately this has been done without the help of Yara’s N-Sensor or Atfarm digital platform which we were due to trial this season. The N-Sensor failed to materialise due to a six week wait for a cable that would have allowed our spreaders control box to talk to the Yara box.

 

Yes, I know, before you say it, ridiculous. Let’s hope we can have another go next season as I still feel that real time monitoring has benefits over satellite imaging.

The Atfarm was going to be rather a more complex system which I’m still keen to try, however, for this season it was going to be implemented too late for us and would ideally have been tested alongside the N-Sensor.

 

Although frustrating on both counts, the agricultural year will soon swing round again and hopefully all parties involved, including me, can be a little more prepared.

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