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Talking Arable with Iain Green: A slow year

Insights
We finally finished combining our own cereals
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We finally finished combining our own cereals September 14.

 

Barley movement has been very slow this year as intakes at some of the maltings have struggled to keep up. This was because the early areas could not get harvesting because of the weather which resulted in the whole of the North East of Scotland combining at the same time.

 

Yields have been good with spring barley for malting averaging 7.04 tonnes/ha. I was very fortunate to have sold a tonnage forward a year ago, pity it wasn’t it all. It looks as though we will be faced with a period of the old saying "down corn up horn".

 

I was lucky we managed to secure all the malting barley before the quality deteriorated. The piggery has now used all the winter barley and we are in the market buying feed barley. Thankfully the pig meat price is just managing to keep above the 153p bracket, although I do not know for how much longer as the spot price is about 18p/kg less. The pig industry needs a spell of buoyant prices to allow for reinvestment.

 

The ground started to dry out enough to allow us to start sowing winter barley on September 22 and finish it before the end of the month. We then went straight onto drilling wheat but just after we had started the weather broke again sending another 58mm of rain in 24 hours. This followed by another 17mm has meant wheat drilling has been delayed. As I write this on October 25, we have had a few

dry, windy days, which have allowed drilling to commence again with the ploughs only a few hours in front of the one-pass power harrow combination.

 

Hopefully if the weather holds out then drilling will be finished before the end of October. We have changed the drill combination but stuck with the same manufacturer and kept the same configuration of fertiliser in the front hopper, power harrow and drill with twin disc coulters on the rear. This system has worked well for a number of years and germination has been excellent, but because we drill our headlands last to prevent compaction I have always been bothered about the large overlap area at the ends, along with the trail of seed and fertiliser left at every end as you lifted the drill out of work. Every year these areas go flat, not only with double seed but also fertiliser too. Therefore our replacement drill now switches off the seed and the fertiliser by GPS and is linked through our RTK network – hopefully we will also see a reduction in wasted seed and fertiliser.

 

We have now got more information on the CAP reform. I wish we had got all this a lot earlier so allowing everyone in Scotland to make plans before drilling commenced.

 

It looks like we should be okay with the three crop rule with winter barley, spring barley, winter wheat and grassland but the decision we still need to make is what we will do with the 5% required in Ecological Focus Area. I feel this is completely wrong as it just appears another name for set-aside. I cannot believe we will need to take about 62ha out of production and either leave it fallow, or as field margins or a nitrogen fixing crop, I hope it will be become clear with more details which option will suit our farming system soon.

 

As we move into autumn/winter it is always the time where I try to purchase next year’s fertiliser. All nitrogen has been bought with a lot already delivered home, but it does seem frustrating that compound prices are up on last year and with cereal prices not showing much improvement over the next twelve months it is hard to commit to placing an order.

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