I remember when an employee at Southesk retired a few years ago, I asked him what was the biggest difference in his job since he started.
I will be honest, I was expecting an answer based on the increase in machinery size, the reduction in staff or perhaps for him, the terrifying prospect of GPS, but instead he said the loss of seasons was the most significant change.
I guess this winter has so far proven him right, as after a fantastic spell of weather through autumn and a similar early winter, we seem to have got to February without much thought.
Crops are looking well, with the lack of rain helping considerably on our silty clay soils, which by now would often have run together, suffocating struggling plant roots. The annual tactical battle with pigeons on oilseed rape is in full swing and, on the whole, I am pleased to say we are winning. A lapse in attention on one block, however, over the Christmas period has proven damaging but I am hopeful the crop will recover.
The unseasonably mild temperatures have created the perfect environment for mildew, which we have to fairly high levels in both our KWS Orwell winter barley and Gerald winter oats.
As I write (January 25) we have had three nights of temperatures as low as -5degC, so hopefully this will help fry off the mildew. Slightly more concerning is the level of disease in our OSR with recent ADAS leaf tissue samples of our Incentive and SY Harnas showing 50% of leaves affected with light leaf spot, albeit not yet visual, and 3% with phoma, a disease which, with our milder winters, does seem to be slowly finding its way north.
Having had our soils resampled in autumn we are now able to look back over the last five years to assess whether changes we have made in crop production methods have resulted in positive uplifts to our P,K,Mg and pH levels. And the answer is yes, and no.
On some of our land our indices have improved. However, unfortunately some have gone the other way. With our crop yields increasing in this period, however, it is fairly clear our offtakes have been higher than anticipated, but at least we now have up-to-date information to correct this and can implement a plan going forward. We also had organic matter levels tested, which has provided some interesting results compared to the national average and across our own variable soil types. Armed with this new information and on top of some welcome frosts, we have been able to apply Calcifert to some low pH hotspots where our rotationally-applied calcium limestone is running out of steam.
We all took a trip to the Lamma Show which is now in its new location making it a lot easier to attend from the North. We left home at 3.50am to get a flight from Edinburgh and were home by 11.30pm.
Although a long day, the show was well worth the trip and credit must go to the organisers for attracting such a wide variety of companies to the new venue. There was something there for everyone and I was encouraged all my colleagues were able to spend time looking at ideas which would be of assistance to their own individual roles at Southesk.
A replacement telehandler is on the shopping list this spring so it was an ideal time for everyone to have a good look at what is on offer and also to meet the guys from Chafer from whom we have just ordered a new Interceptor self-propelled sprayer.
All in all, the show was a great success and I hope people attending not only enjoyed the experience but appreciated the historical importance of Lamma Show and how a well-organised, honest event can become what we saw in Birmingham.