With the weather having being kinder to us since the turn of the year, significant progress has been made on two fronts.
Our ploughs have managed to keep turning the ground black and although our heavy land has turned over a bit shiny, at least it has now got the chance to let mother nature’s frosts get to work, that is, if she ever blesses us with any.
The lighter land destined for potatoes, turnips or peas has ploughed over well, with my plan being to sow the lighter land cereals with a combination of the direct drill or behind the Lemken Karat cultivator.
The second area showing progress over the last month has been winter crop growth where our unseasonably warm temperatures have allowed relatively unhindered development, even on some of the fields that, after being flooded at the tail end of last year, I had written off.
I just know, in the coming weeks, it is fields like these that will create the ‘do I rip it out, or give it a bit more time’ debate between myself and the agronomist. Experience has taught me that it is usually best just to start again rather than try to motivate a backward crop that has lost any notion of the word ‘vigour’.
Spring cropping will be a split of Laureate spring barley on the better land and Conway spring oats on the rest. Although there has been some winter wheat going into the ground over the last few weeks, there is still going to be an abundance of spring barley sown this spring, so, with this in mind, I have actually reduced our barley area and significantly increased the spring oats. The latter require fewer inputs, scavenge nutrients better on poorer land and do not carry so much stress-inducing risk in meeting specifications come harvest.
As much as I would like to sow some more winter wheat, I have already juggled our rotation around significantly in the autumn to get crops in the ground and as such don’t have anything available that wouldn’t adversely affect land destined for our joint venture vegetable agreements and the wider rotational implications that they dictate.
I do find it interesting, however, that during a mild winter like this and out of desperation to get more wheat sown, the country stops talking about vernalisation which, from memory, is the crop’s requirement to experience low enough temperatures to move from vegetative to reproductive development.
Is this not as important as my college lectures made out 20 years ago or, like many other things, has the aforementioned process just adapted to warmer temperatures?
Of all our crops, oilseed rape has benefited the most from the warm winter which, in places, has secured its survival, however, it is still desperately small. Our latest leaf samples taken through Bayer’s spot-check project show both phoma and downy mildew in our Incentive and Harnas with Acacia showing just phoma.
To not have any light leaf spot present is a first for me, especially since no autumn fungicide was applied and perhaps highlights how the changing winter temperatures are in turn affecting the traditional north/south divide between light leaf spot and phoma. Further sampling will be taken before the end of March and prior to stem extension.
As I write this article, the sun is, frustratingly, shining in the window, fuelling my urge to find something to do outside. With our annual budget completed and plans for 2020 almost finalised, it is at this time of year that my desk starts to get a bit of a rest as I exit the confines of the office and start getting under the men’s feet.
I will, however, finish as I did last month, in reminding myself and anyone else who wants to listen that we need to be patient this spring and give the land time to dry and recover.