Jack Hopkins with his combine harvester© Richard Stanton

It is said you should not go by calendar date, but rather when the conditions are right. However, when you get into May and spring drilling is yet to be completed, it does start to try your patience.

We have now finished drilling, but it has been spread over a two-week period, so should make harvest interesting.

The first block of spring oats is now emerging, but it is not looking pretty. With the soil not being quite dry enough at the time of drilling, then heavy rain and now baking heat, it can be said that emergence is a little uneven.

See also: New spring oat variety with miller backing good bet for 2018

With the second block we ran a disc cultivator lightly 24 hours ahead of the drill and drilling conditions were greatly improved. I think being flexible has to be the key.

Spreading risk

We have not completed our total planned spring drilling area as we decided to spread the risk and leave the grass cover crop in and take a cut of silage.

The winter wheat has really picked up in the past 10 days and a T1 has now been applied. An SDHI-based fungicide has been used where we think there is potential.

Both of our chosen wheat varieties, Graham and Costello, are living up to their good disease ratings.

The oilseed rape has reached full flower one month later than last year, but does look full of promise.

In the winter barley we look to have lost quite a few tillers and I think this is down to the crop having wet feet for a prolonged period of time and not receiving nitrogen soon enough.

I also think the earlier-drilled conventional barley is showing signs of a barley yellow dwarf virus infection.


Jack Hopkins is the assistant farm manager on a 730ha estate in north Herefordshire on predominantly silty clay loam soils. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, spring oats and peas, plus grassland that supports a flock of 1,000 ewes and 25 pedigree Hereford cattle.