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Talking arable with Andrew Robinson: Difficult last season


The end of the year is always a time to take stock and look at where we are, what worked and what did not and how we can improve for the coming year

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This last season has been a strange one, with everything seeming to be hard work. The year started off on a cold note but picked up with a good amount of sunshine to give most of us some ideal wheat and barley growing conditions, but a late start to harvest along with patchy rain meant combining was a long drawn out process for us; yields were good but not quite as good as some outstanding crops in the north of the country.


This autumn too has not been straightforward, although everything was sown in good time. Crops generally look well; oilseed rape continues to grow in the mild, wet weather, and as soon as ground conditions allow us to travel, and as long as the soil temperature is below 10degC, we shall apply our Kerb/Crawler (propyzamide/carbetamide) mix.


Wheat looks good, barleys too look like they are set well for the winter after receiving some pendimethalin as a post-emergence residual, along with some Hallmark (lambda cyhalothrin) and manganese.


Manganese seed dressings have been used on both the wheat and barley for the past four years and without doubt we are seeing the benefits by not having those horrible, yellow crops going into winter, which then seem to be extra slow to get away in spring.


As I write, gale force winds and rain is lashing my office windows but we have managed to spray two-thirds of the wheat with a second residual in the form of some Liberator (flufenacet + DFF), while 80 hectares has had some Auxiliary (adjuvant) added to it where I was concerned about the amount of black-grass coming through.


These wheats have had an insecticide too, as aphids have been seen floating about. We are hoping to get onto the last few loads before too much more rain falls and closes the application window.


The good and the bad

So what worked – wheat, barley and bean yields were excellent. The new Watkins cultivator and Claas 770tt performed well, the variable rate seed drilling again proved its worth, black-grass control was almost perfect and the weather was just superb for the Young Farmers Rally we hosted in May.


What didn’t work – our ‘red’ telehandlers have proved very unreliable this year and have cost us a considerable sum of money, so one will be replaced by another make early in the New Year.


Variable rate nitrogen has again given us negative results, with generally lower yields at an increased cost which is extremely frustrating as it feels the right thing to be doing in conjunction with both seed and P and K, but the results from more than 25 of our own trials last year and this year mean we will be dropping variable rate nitrogen until I see an improvement in the technology.


The winter months see most of my time spent in the farm office and one job which I really enjoy is looking at all the financial aspects of the business, from cost of production on the arable side to the financial management figures of our residential and commercial properties, along with enterprise margins for the composting enterprise, all of which are very different in their management requirements.


By the time you read this I shall be in Asia taking a break. It has been a difficult year for my wife Sue; she is always a fantastic support to me so hopefully we can both recharge our batteries ready for 2016.


Best wishes to you all for the New Year and let’s hope UK farming PLC will give us better returns next year.

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