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Talking Arable with Andrew Robinson: Cold, windy but dry!


Cold, windy but dry has been the dominant theme here in Bedfordshire for March, which allowed spring beans to be drilled into excellent conditions. 

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Andrew Robinson
Andrew Robinson

These have now produced a plumule and radicle and have received their pre-emergence herbicide of 4l/hectare of Nirvana (imazamox + pendimethalin). A second application of 1l/ha of glyphosate has been applied just before the beans poke their heads through the soil to take out black-grass and broad-leaved weeds which have started to appear.


The continued cold weather held up fungicide and growth regulation applications to the cereals; however we found a window to apply a pre-T0 to winter barley containing 0.25 litres/ha of Corbel (fenpropimorph) for mildew control along with some manganese and growth regulators. A block of lush Leeds winter wheat at Toddington too had an early growth regulator along with some manganese during late-March to keep it in check.


Skyfall remains to be the only wheat variety which continues to move with any purpose and had its T0 applied during the third week of March and is already heading to the T1 timing. The remaining wheats received their T0s over the long Easter weekend along with the barley, which was treated with 0.75 litres/ha Kayak (cyprodinil), plus some Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) and manganese. Axial (pinoxaden) plus Adigor (adjuvant) has also been applied to 10ha of barley which has some black-grass present.


After the autumn flea beetle damage to rape crops here in the east of England we are now suffering from secondary damage, with certain areas of the farm having flea beetle larvae inside the plants and therefore ultimately affecting yield. Oilseed rape is already a marginal crop in terms of gross margin, without these secondary headaches as if you allow a £248/ha rent, the cost of production for our OSR is £273.61/tonne for a crop which yielded 4.77t/ha.


Growth regulation, light leaf spot control and trace element application has taken place in rape, with the most forward crop at Boughton receiving 0.75 litres/ha of Caryx (mepiquat chloride_metconazole), 0.5 litres/ha Folicur (tebuconazole) plus 1l/ha boron, with the crop at Toddington receiving 0.75 litres/ha of Folicur plus boron. A sclerotinia spray has now been applied consisting of Amistar (azoxystrobin), with some Hallmark (lambda-cyhalothrin) for pollen beetle which are just starting to appear. The 10ha trial will be in direct comparison to 10ha of Amistar in the centre on the field.


Both rape and barley have had their second dose of fertiliser and will be receiving a final dose during the third week of April.


Soyl has been to resample the farms this winter and we now have the results back which show we need to apply some lime for the first time in 11 years. Before I arrived in 2004 lime used to be applied at about 600t annually, but having the farm soil mapped in 2004 has more than paid for itself in lime saving alone.


Students have now been appointed, with Tom coming back for his fifth year and Dougie for his second, along with two Lees, one to cart grain and the other to drive the Quadtrac.


I won’t dwell on the farce which is the Basic Payment Scheme, however the forms have been printed off and I am now working my way through them. I cannot understand how we have gone backwards on this even compared to IACS days and at what cost. I have never understood why we moved away from itemising our crops when we filled in the IACS forms showing each crop. You might think the Government would like to know how much of each crop is grown in the UK; however it probably suggests what we already know, all UK governments past and present lack interest in food security.



  • 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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