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Talking Arable with Andrew Robinson: Crop establishment

Insights

Dry weather during the last few days of September and the first week of October allowed us to variable rate drill the wheat and barley.

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Barley has been sown at 400 seeds per square metre with most of the wheat at between 300 – 350 seeds dependant on variety and location. Varieties this year include Gallant, Skyfall and Crusoe with Glacier again taking the winter barley slot.

 

Gallant, for all its drawbacks with poor disease attributes, is in there as it performs well for us but most importantly it is generally fit to cut as soon as we have finished harvesting the rape. Due to lack of decent premiums, this will be the first time no soft wheat has been grown on this farm for the past 40 years.


Having got the seedbeds to a near perfect state, the heavy rain then came meaning we had to run through some of the ground with a 10m set of spring tines to let air in and dry them out, an unforeseen but necessary requirement.


All pre-emergence sprays have been applied to rolled seed beds, most of which are excellent apart from the block behind beans which is not as good as I would have hoped. Rain followed the pre–emergence application a few days later, which should improve efficacy. Most of the Avadex (tri-allate) too had been applied to fields that required a treatment.


Oilseed rape is now moving away into what I call the ‘comfort zone’ where the crop should be able to repel most things apart from blackgrass which is starting to appear in some fields. Carbetamex (carbetamide) will be applied as will Kerb (propyzamide) in November as temperatures fall.


Having found a few slugs in our bait traps at the beginning of September in the ex-rape ground we applied some slug pellets and achieved excellent control pre-drilling.

 

See also: Wet weather proving ideal for slugs

 

The light footprint of the quadbike and towed spreader set up, with the ability to spread at 20kph to 32m, works very well in all conditions, wet or dry, while being able to cover around 34ha per hour including filling ensures speedy applications even when conditions are less favourable.


The Openfield trials produced some interesting results with the three highest yielding plots being KWS Lili, Crusoe and KWS Siskin, with Crusoe taking the financial top spot with a yield of 13.89t/ha and 13.34% protein and Siskin close behind at 13.82t/ha and 12.83% protein from 271kg of nitrogen.

Milling wheats averaged 13.42t/ha compared to the feed wheat at 13.24t/ha which reaffirms our decision to grow milling wheat.

 

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Wheat harvesting

Having combined 1136ha with the Claas 770tt it performed as expected with most days in wheat harvesting 430 – 665 tonnes per day at an average of 45.6t per hour over the weighbridge, a 21% increase over our Claas 760tt. However we do still feel that we could do with more power when chopping unripe straw.

 

Having harvested 10,267 tonnes this season, the total cost per tonne worked out at £5.32 with an average fuel rate of 2.06 litres per tonne (86% chopping and 14% swathing) which although not brilliant is significantly better than the 760tt we ran previously.

 

The Annual Investment allowance has been set at £200,000 starting in January 2016 from its current temporary £500,000. I feel the Government has missed a trick here as a higher AIA, especially when commodity prices are low, would have helped businesses retain some much needed cash as the £200,000 is deducted from the profits before tax.

 

This farm has been recording rainfall data for the past 34 years, and looking back over the records there is a stark contrast in terms of rainfall during this period. In the first 17 years (1980 – 1997) we had just three wetter-than-average seasons compared to the last 17 years (1997 – 2014), which shows we have had 12.

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