A month ago I started my article by commenting on how lovely the weather was and how emerging spring barleys having benefited from a bit of rain pre-emergence were feeling the benefit of warmer soils.
Well, the weather is still lovely having recently peaked at 24degC, however, with little rain to speak of and none forecast, said barleys are starting to look somewhat stuck.
As a low nitrogen variety, we treat Laureate the same as any other - a little liquid ammonium sulphate pre-emergence with the balance of granular ammonium nitrate applied as soon as we can see the tramlines.
This ensures that minimal nitrogen ends up in the head. However, moisture is now required to utilise the fertiliser, retain as many tillers as possible, promote rooting and ensure grain nitrogen stays low.
I’m just glad that for the second year running I haven’t used granular urea, a decision made a lot easier with more competitively UK sourced ammonium nitrate available, as I think volatilisation will be significant this season.
Elsewhere winter cereals are looking promising with forward wheats almost at T2, oilseed rape due to receive its second flowering spray and winter barley put to bed.
Its been a relatively straightforward spring in terms of meeting spray timings with our operator in training coping excellently, however, with potatoes almost through the ground, pre-emergence herbicides will be a priority as we enter what’s usually our busiest period for spraying.
We are all looking forward to the arrival of our new Chafer Interceptor sprayer which will stop off at the Royal Highland Show before being delivered to Southesk just in time for the onset of blight season. With arable operations up to date we are currently establishing green manures and wild bird seeds as part of our environmental commitments.
Our chosen green manure is based predominantly around oil radish which will be rotated around our heaviest block of land over the next five years, land that has low organic matter and is prone to slumping.
My preference for radish comes from growing it as a biofumigant on land where we have cereal cyst nematode.
It has an excellent root structure and creates a manageable biomass to incorporate in our narrow autumn window.
If only the wild bird seeds were so straight forward. In the time it takes to establish 10 hectares of a mix of three cereals, spring rape, spring linseed and clover, in a number of locations, I’m fairly sure we could have sown 10 times as much wheat!
With farming’s environmental impact ever present in the media and our responsibility as current guardians of the land to farm in a way that is sensitive to nature I must admit at being a bit unsettled by the recent inclusion of a ‘Biodiversity Action Plan’ in our Scottish Quality Crops (SQC) audit, an audit that on the whole delivers what it aims to achieve.
Like some businesses, Southesk choose to implement environmental schemes, however, like all businesses we also set 5% of our arable land aside for Ecological Focus Areas under basic payment legislation.
Both of the afore mentioned promote biodiversity in their own way be it optional or a requirement, however, neither have anything to do with producing quality crops, something that could be done without any thought for the environment.
We work in an industry that’s audited very heavily, which I don’t have a problem with if the criteria supports the objectives, however, we have to be careful that needless requirements aren’t included for the sake of it.
Our health and safety policy is audited every year to include our emergency action plan, so why is it also an SQC requirement? And don’t get me started on farm appearance. I think I run a tidy farm, but my assessor may not. Regardless of that outcome, what’s it got to do with producing quality crops? Precisely nothing.