A DROP OF timely rain makes all the difference, turbo-charging Cocktail spring barley out of a drilled, tightly-rolled, bone-dry seed-bed within a mere 10 days.

Not only has this very welcome rain got the barley away, it also allowed me to achieve a half-decent seed-bed for the Syncro beans, which I”ve belatedly drilled.

This spring”s cloddy seed-beds from over-wintered soils stems from the fact we have not had a decent frost of less than -6C. I know that because the farm cats” drinking water in one of the barns surface freezes when the outside temperature is -7C and freezes solid at -8C. This winter it simply has not. Not that the cats have registered any complaints.

 I am still undecided on herbicide strategy on the beans as one or two of the fields have the seed-bed quality of MOT type 1 aggregate even after a roll, which could make cheap and cheerful simazine a risky choice. However I will consider simazine on fields with good seed-beds, and away from a watercourse – roughly half the total bean area.

 Both Cocktail spring barley and Syncro spring beans are newer varieties, which I am trying because of the bugbears of the older more established varieties – Optic spring barley and Scirocco beans.

 With Optic I worry about mildew catching me off guard and then there is the unbearable heartbreak of almost watching the ears drop off just before the combine gets into the field. As for Scirocco if downy mildew does not deplete yield then bean rust and ascochyta do their worst. Oh, for an easy life. But then again I have yet to tackle my SP5.

swb@ousebankfarm.wanadoo.co.uk