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Talking Arable with Andrew Robinson: A successful time for cereals

This year it seems the sprayer has never been out of wheat crops
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This year’s Cereals, for us, was a complete success, using the western entrance and arriving at the car park at 7am, we proceeded to the entrance within 10 minutes and had absolutely no problems leaving, unlike the 90 minutes crawl out the car park we spent at last year’s event.


The rains came again in May, and by the end of the month the yearly total is as much as we would normally expect to receive by the end of September. While crops on the whole look well, with the prices where they are now and with the increase in variable costs they will need to be fantastic, let’s hope so.


The middle of June saw us host some foreign visitors; firstly a Ukrainian farming director overseeing a mere 180,000 hectares in eastern Ukraine. This was a real eye opener listening to the tales of war which are currently going on out there, literally on some of his farmland and interestingly they are set for their biggest wheat harvest yet but are struggling to get contractors to come and harvest due to the current problems.


Secondly we hosted 30 Finnish farmers and advisers who too where decrying both the new three crop rule and the neonicotinoid ban.


Interestingly they rely on support payments to produce a profit as their small acreages and lower average yields means without these payments most farms would not survive and their farming future is, sadly, uncertain.


I am feeling very nervous about how the oilseed rape is going to yield as I am not convinced there is as much there as we all hope. The crop is turning fast and as I write I expect the Es Alegria over at Lidlington to be harvested during the third week of July with the rest following over a 10-day period. The barley has been desiccated so I hope we will see the combine roll in the barley on the contract-farmed land around July 15.


This year it seems the sprayer has never been out of wheat crops, with a total of six fungicides applied to prevent mostly septoria from rising up the plant towards the crucial leaf 1 and 2. I am pleased to say this has been a success, although this has obviously blown the fungicide budget out of the water but what was the alternative?


Wheat ear counts have come in remarkably even ranging from 538 to 656 ears per square metre which leads us to believe the variable rate seed drilling has done its job in respect of producing a more even crop; hopefully this will translate into yield.


Beans have moved on apace but still don’t look overly inspiring, they have received some Alto Elite (chlorothalonil+cyproconazole) for some chocolate spot, along with Hallmark (lambda cyhalothrin) for bruchid beetle and Photrel Plus (S, Mn, Mg, Bo, Mo) to address the low nutrient results which came back from the tissue tests.


Like many farms, black-grass has been an issue for us on one block of wheat so three hectares went for wholecrop silage in June before any seeds where shed.


A few new machines have arrived in time for harvest, a new main tractor, a second-hand wheeled tractor, a new set of 16m rolls and a long-awaited hedgecutter will hopefully speed things up.

Wheat trials

During the second week of July we held our Openfield wheat trials evenings which proved a great success even if the first evening was a bit low on numbers, but many thanks to Andrew Buck and David Leaper for organising the event and to Lee Bennett for giving us his typical honest review of all the varieties.


All four students have now arrived so they are busy finishing off grain stores, hedgecutting gateways and dealing with the ever-increasing amounts of compost.


Good luck for harvest, let’s hope it’s a safe, dry and fruitful one.


  • Andrew Robinson is farms manager at Heathcote Farms, Bedfordshire. He is a former winner of the nabim/HGCA Milling Wheat Challenge.
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