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Talking Arable with Jim Bullock: Plant numbers higher than expected

The year has ended with most winter wheat (Relay and JB Diego) establishing well and plant numbers higher than expected. Weed control has been good where we were able to get on and spray.

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Talking Arable with Jim Bullock #arablefarming

During November, soil conditions or wind meant the sprayer stayed parked up. As nothing was drilled until mid-October, after several pre-drilling glyphosate applications, the weed burden is not too high on the untreated crops. As I write, we could either do with some spraying days or colder weather during December.

The wet November at least gave me time to re-dry our beans prior to loading out of store. As much as I like beans for what they add to the rotation, they are very time-consuming to get to a marketable quality.

We never seem to be able to harvest them at an acceptable moisture content, always in excess of 17% moisture content, so I put them over the drier and get them down to below 16% in the first pass, put them into store with pile dry ventilators before putting them through the drier for a second time, aiming to get them down to 14.5% moisture content.

It’s a slow process as you cannot use too much heat. It is not a factor taken into account when looking at the comparative crop margin data produced by various seed companies trying to lure you into growing their crops.

With the farm split 50:50 between winter wheat and spring-sown crops, we have to look yet again at what will be in the rotation for 2016; gone are the days when I had a five-year cropping plan.

Beans will be included as we need a certain area for our ‘greening’, but they will not be grown in any field where we have potential black-grass or charlock problems, as the available chemistry either does not work or stunts the crop. (So no Laser (cycloxydim) or Basagran (bentazone) in 2016).

 

We have always done well with spring wheat, but in 2015 at least 50% of our crop was decimated by gout fly, reducing its yield to about 5t/ha, so although it might not happen again, we will be reducing the area in 2016.

 

The wheat will be replaced by oats as we understand there is an expanding market for oats, added to which they suit our reduced tillage system.

 

Break crop

Break crop

We need another break crop, and although I swore never to grow it again, linseed looks like being a possible contender.

There are several options for controlling broad-leaved weeds in the crop and there is an EAMU to apply Centurion Max (clethodim), which is about the only product which works on spring-germinating black-grass.

I am going to factor in getting some of it contract combined, as harvesting it in September can be a challenge.

A local company (paper manufacturer) has put in for planning permission for a new factory and an anaerobic digestion plant which neighbours our land.

This would be the outlet for all sorts of crops which would solve our cropping problems, but, as expected, the local community sees it as the end of life as they know it; it will be a long battle to get permission.

Unfortunately I was unable to get to Agritechnica this time but my brother managed to attend and reported back the machinery just seems to get bigger and heavier.

How having a tractor weighing in at 29 tonnes can be good for the soil, no matter how the weight is distributed, is debatable.

 

See also: Is it time to lose some weight?

 

The bigger and wider machinery gets so it needs a more weighty structure just to make it work. There comes a point when using two units might be better even if means employing more labour.

My brother’s overall impression was most of the machinery on offer was designed at a time when wheat was £150/t, not at £100/t as it is today.

I believe 2016 might just be the turning point to better times ahead. Season’s greetings to one and all.

 

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