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Talking Arable with Jim Bullock: All in all I can't complain after a good run of weather


Hoping for a good Autumn and sticking to my guns whilst watching my neighbors plant 

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See what Arable columnist Jim Bullock has been up to this week! #arable #farming

All we needed was just another half day of dry weather to get the wheat finished. I cannot complain as we had a run of reasonable weather to get the majority into store. We never seem to be able to get the moisture below the magic 14.5%; it must be a consequence of farming in the wetter West, and so all bar about 200 tonnes has been over the dryer.


Yields are what I would describe as a good average, somewhere between 8-8.5t/hectare, not spectacular but better than the three previous years. As ever, any hint of black-grass and output drops by at least a tonne or more per hectare.


Our best crop has been JB Diego, which produced a good looking sample with some very high specific weights (78kg/hl). Our Relay yielded well (8.5t/ha), but the sample was not as good as the Diego. Our crops of Evolution have looked well all season but have produced some very poor specific weights (69/70kg/hl), which was a bit disappointing, especially as the variety was grown on some of our best fields, so not a contender in next year’s cropping plan.


My fear of late drilled wheat appears to be totally unfounded, as our best crop (JB Diego) was drilled during the last week in October. Grass-weed control was good, with just a pre-em and Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) in the spring, which worked. I just hope we get an open autumn, which will allow us to do the same again. Our late-September drilled crops all had levels of black-grass in them as well as suffering from gout fly damage.


At the time of writing, the third week in August, our winter beans are ready to combine and look promising with little sign of any bruchid beetle damage. However, our black-grass control in the crop has not been good even after an autumn application of Kerb (propyzamide) and a spring application of Laser (cycloxydim), so much so I might even go for spring wheat on some fields to give time to clear up the black-grass.

Our spring beans will not even be ready to be desiccated until the end of August so it looks like a mid- to late-September harvest for them. Our spring-sown wheats, Belepi and Tybalt, could really have done with an August heatwave as it is probably going to be mid-September before they ripen. The ears are big and so are the grains but they are still very green. I am sure this will ensure a bumper yield... Usually our spring wheat is ready for harvest as soon as we have finished the winter crop, but this year it has just kept on growing; it will be followed by spring beans so it’s not a problem.


I have stuck to my resolve not to plant any winter oilseed rape, but obviously my neighbours think differently, with large areas being planted over the last week. I cannot see how a positive margin could be made out of the crop, with forward prices of £235/t for harvest 2016.


I know we have grown OSR too often over the last two decades and I am sure this why we have seen yields plateau at about 3.5t/ha, so we will not be drilling any rape until we have had a five, or better still, a six-year break between plantings.


The question then is what to grow instead and looking at present commodity prices the best option is probably nothing, a winter/early spring fallow to clear up any black-grass followed by summer fertility building cover crop, then back into winter wheat

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