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Talking arable with Neil MacLeod: Patience is a virtue

Patience is a virtue they say and you would think that, after such a kind summer and autumn, I would enjoy the feeling of calm starting to envelope Southesk, as seasonal colours signal the end of summer and the occasional frosty morning heralds thoughts of winter.

Those who know me best, however, will not be surprised to learn, as I write this article on October 20, that I am more impatient than ever. With only 60 hectares of potatoes left to lift and conditions behind the harvester perfect for wheat establishment, I am acutely aware of how quickly the weather can change.

 

Around this time last year, the ploughs came out in a desperate search for dry soil with the subsequently established wheat crop failing and having to be replaced in the spring by high nitrogen malting barley. Autumn sowing so far has been fairly straightforward with our penultimate block of wheat finished just before the gale force winds of Storm Callum arrived which, along with 45 millimetres of rain, brought down a number of trees and branches.

 

The rain, which was the first significant amount we had seen in a month, was very much welcomed, as not only did it offer newly-established crops a drink, it started falling on a Friday – allowing us all a deserved weekend off and a different kind of drink.

 

Winter crops have responded well to the rain, with my only area of concern being one block of oilseed rape, which was sown into gravelly land next to the river Southesk. Having applied dung to this land, we took the decision to plough but, unfortunately, the loss of moisture and the lack of subsequent rain through September has had a significantly negative effect on the crop’s establishment, not helped by an invasion of flea beetle, a pest we are not used to seeing this far north.


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Oilseed rape

 

The rest of our oilseed rape, which was direct drilled in the same week, is looking well and I am confident it will shortly be at a stage where it will hold its own against the winter weather and the inevitable visits from both pigeons and geese. The dry weather through September allowed the team a day off to attend the tillage event, which was held a couple of hours down the road in East Lothian. This event only heads north of the border every five years, so it was fortunate that the weather and conditions were such that all of the equipment on show was able to perform well in relatively kind soil conditions.

 

I always have a bee in my bonnet about the lack of events like this held north of the border and the lack of enthusiasm and willingness from some southern-based manufacturers and distributors to send machinery north for demonstration purposes.

 

One event that will be much easier for visitors from the north to attend will be Lamma at the NEC in Birmingham this coming January and for which I have already booked flights for the team. To be able to fly down, view and experience as much as Lamma has to offer and fly back late the same day is a trip we are all looking forward to.

 

With the end of sowing in sight, thoughts now turn to winter work for the men and, for me, the 2019 budget with our financial year-end looming. We have an end-of-year deadline for our environmental commitments, with 2,500 metres of stock fencing still to erect, along with a new filling area for two sprayers with an adjacent biobed. This is on top of the more seasonal work of hedge cutting, ditching, draining, ploughing, pigeon chasing and machinery maintenance, among other things. Oh well, it won’t be long ’til Christmas.

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