We seem to be ‘enjoying’ another challenging autumn with unsettled weather. Wheat drilling is almost up to date, and the crops on heavier land at Newborough are nicely through, despite holding back drilling a little to help with blackgrass control.

Interestingly, I had Take Off seed dressing applied to most of the home-saved seed again this year, and the effect on speed of establishment was impressive and very welcome.

The potato harvest has been delayed by rain on both farms, which is frustrating, with concerns about getting the spuds safely in, and also delaying drilling the following wheat crop. The potato area will be reduced next year as we will not grow them at the Newborough farm for a while, and life will be a lot easier without them there.

I have had my first batch of sugar beet lifted and most is delivered, with sugar averaging so far 17.17%, and dirt tares 4.9%. This is close to the factory average, but not as good as last year’s first lift here. The yield looks like it will be reasonable but not fantastic.

The mild weather has helped the oilseed rape to grow well, and it is looking quite forward. I have recently applied some growth regulator (tebuconazole) and Advance 66 (phosphite) nutrient spray, taking advantage of the first decent day for about three weeks when the wind let me get the sprayer out!

I popped down to one of our local internal drainage board pumping stations one evening recently to assist our local drainage board officer for a while with an issue at the pump. Having just had 30mm of rain in a short time and planned drain maintenance going on through the autumn, the pressure was on.

It reminded me of the importance of the work that all involved with drainage boards have to do in the fens, both with drainage in a wet time, and with water level management for irrigation in dry times.

There are many people involved in this on-going management of the fenland drainage system, and with much of my land being slightly under sea level I am very grateful to all concerned.

Philip Bradshaw grows cereals, sugar beet and potatoes on 300ha of fenland and other soil types at Flegcroft Farm, Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire

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