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Peter Chapman: Black-grass in the South poses rotation questions

Insights

I travelled nearly the length of the country last week on my trip down to the Cereals event. I had a great two days at the event, enjoying the warm weather along with everyone else.

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My time on the barley plots on the HGCA stand was dominated by questions about hybrid barley and its role in black-grass control, and from my journey South I could see why.

 

I had an appointment in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, and on the drive from there to Cambridgeshire I saw some horrendous fields of wheat/black-grass which looked like they would be better off in the silage pit. As a simple Aberdeenshire farmer I find it difficult to comprehend how fields can get in such a state but it is a weed I have never had to contend with.

 

I know wheat may have the best gross margin of all combinable crops, but surely a more balanced rotation including spring cropping and use of the plough at times would serve better than these wheat fields which will surely leave no margin at all.

Early harvest

It certainly looks like it will be an early harvest even in Aberdeenshire, where a good growing season has brought crop development forward by about seven to 10 days. We all want an early start but this year I do not want it too early as I have pullets to move on July 28. It would be good to be able to get the move done and both sheds mucked and washed before the start of harvest, but at this stage that looks unlikely. There is nothing worse than seeing neighbours flying on harvesting when you are stuck in a shed washing it out.

 

Along with silage making and finishing off the last of the spraying, the daily effort has been dominated by work on a new piece of land we have managed to buy. We acquired, in a private deal, another 17 hectares (42 acres) little more than a mile from the home farm but on the way to the outlying farm where we have the poultry. It has been in temporary grass for the last 20 years or so with only sheep and cattle grazing it, so it should be in good heart.

 

I will know if it has been a sound buy once I have the results of the GPS soil mapping and have been through it with the plough.

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