March 2011 - Posts
Having drilled some of our first wheats in mid September (the earliest they've drilled wheat on the farm I was told) it is now possible to find signs of gout fly damage - not enough to be a problem but on careful inspection some tillers resemble a 'spring onion' - see the picture below (the only infected tiller is the fat one) - and by cutting the plant in half it is also possible to see the gout fly larvae - see the bottom picture. The gout fly lays its eggs on the leaf in September and once the eggs hatch the larvae burrows down into the plant - stunting growth and causing the swelling of the plant - the larvea then feeds on the plant for a few weeks, then pupates for a few more before an adult emerges.
It is possible to spot signs of gout fly in the autumn by identifying signs of egg laying on the leaves- the eggs are 3-4mm long and cylindrical in shape; the crop can be sprayed to control them, although it is important that this is timed to coincide with the eggs hatching - however in our case we either missed the timing of identifying them, or their presence was low enough so that we didn't notice it.
I joined our agronomist on a crop walk the other day to look over the winter wheat and OSR and get an idea of any weed or disease problems we are likely to encounter later in the year. The good thing was that apart from a few cleavers in one wheat field (that was ploughed last year) and some blackgrass (which should be taken care of if last weeks Atlantis application does it's work) the crops were all very clean - the bad thing being I couldn't be tested on my weed identification knowledge!
The most noticeable thing with the majority of our wheat crops at the moment is their size/growth stage - hardly any have reached GS30 yet with only the early drilled crops showing signs of final leaf 4 - the target for T0. With this in mind we will only be carrying out a T0 spray on the early drilled first wheats (Solstice) and a couple of 'forward' second wheats (Einstein) and even this is being delayed until the end of this week to allow the target leaf to better emerge. In terms of the actual application I've got 4 different tank mixes to cater for the different PGR (plant growth regulator) requirements and one including a mildew control.. the basic plan however will be 1.0l/ha Cherokee (Chlorothananil for second wheats) plus the PGR and some manganese.
Hopefully the weather will hold out until the weekend so that we can press on an get this application done - then if the weather later in April is catchy the T1 timing won't be quite so critical. We also could do with a few more days of dry weather to enable us to get 3 fields of second wheats that weren't rolled after drilling rolled - we have to wait until the end of the week to allow 10days after the Atlantis was sprayed as the rolling will slightly damage the plant and the Atlantis could harm the plant as well as the 'weeds' it was intended to kill.
Anyone that's been following this blog for a while may remember the problems I had with getting the OSR in (for those that haven't take a look here) and have had a few ramblings about the crop over the last few months, namely it's size, here and here.
Well we're now into spring, and with reports of pollen beetle already affecting some crops, and the possibilities of yellow flowers starting to appear in the next 7-10days (@no1farmerjake on twitter) I think our OSR should be looking a bit more forward than it is..
The actual establishment method, a Simba DTX and air seeder, produced a reasonable seedbed even in the sticky conditions and the initial establishment good across all of the fields so it will be used again this year - however we'll be making more of an effort to get it drilled earlier in better conditions as I think alot of the reason it's 'backwards' is to do with the drilling date - Dad got his drilled using a Simba X-press with ST bar and air seeder the other side of the hedge a week earlier and through the winter, and at the moment it looks alot better crop. It established itself but then failed to get growing to a decent size before the cold weather, resulting in it being more prone to pigeon damage and slower to start growing now.
Interestingly different soil types, or areas that used to be different fields have fared better and definite lines are visible in the crop where old hedgelines used to be - something that wasn't very evident when the field was drilled. It's variable fields like this that would make the GAI phone app useful as I could walk across the field and easily get the GAI for different parts.. If only I had an iPhone!
Hopefully by concentrating on clearing the straw from fields going into OSR next year we'll be able to get next year's crop drilled earlier, into better conditions, enabling it to get established and have a chance to grow a bit before the weather turns cold.. that's the plan anyway!
Overall to answer my 'title question' I think the actual establishment method has been a success.. the current crop is there and is now starting to grow, we've just got to keep the pigeons off of it! However more attention needs to be made to getting it drilled earlier (easy to say, not so easy in practice when it's wet and we've got straw to bale and cart everywhere!) to give it more of a chance of growing before the winter..
We've been able to make a start on applying Atlantis to the wheats at last (it's been in the shed waiting since October/November!) However, seeing as we had ideal conditions today, there had to be a problem! Firstly the transfer pump for pumping the front tank to the rear tank blew it's oil seals, and then I had alot of problems with the boom sections turning on and off correctly.
Eventually all was sorted and we got underway again, that was until I came across a 8 swans that refused to move - involving alot of chasing and arm waving - without much success to begin with (the one in the picture being particularly stubborn and refusing to move) - eventually though they did move to the edge of the field.. only to re-appear in a different field later in the day.
I finished drilling the spring beans (see the post from 11th March for more about the beans) on Saturday, and by lunchtime today they were all rolled.. not bad going when Thursday morning we didn't think we'd be able to even springtine the fields.. and we didn't do anything yesterday!
Here's a few of pictures...
At last it has dried up enough for us to get on with our spring drilling!
Today I started drilling our spring beans, and managed to get about 65acres completed - we've got just over 110acres to drill in total. The variety we're growing is Fuego which can be used for human consumption and is also an early maturing variety.
In terms of establishment we've certainly made the most of the 'free' cultivation method that is the weather this year... after ploughing the stubbles last November they've only required one pass with the spring tines yesterday before drilling them today. The reason for growing spring beans is that we failed to get the winter beans we had planned to grow drilled before the wet conditions last autumn.
There are a number of reasons for growing beans on the farm as part of the rotation - just in case you wondered;
· They are a different plant species to wheat, so create 'break' between wheat crops that helps to stop diseases that specifically effect wheat (or other cereals)
· Being a different plant species to wheat (broadleaf rather than grass/cereal) also means that it is easier to control grass weeds that cause problems within wheat crops through the use of selective herbicides - these are formulated to specifically effect grass species plants and not effect broadleaved plants (they can also be the opposite)
· They part of the legume family of plants (like peas) and are quite clever thanks to rhizobia bacteria found in root nodules they have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen - meaning that we don't have to apply any artificial nitrogen to the crop - a good think as artificial N is expensive, and we'd have to find time to apply it! Because of their nitrogen fixing ability they also leave the soil higher in nitrogen when they have been harvested, so benefit the following crop
· They have a different harvest date to OSR and Wheat, so it spreads our workload out - meaning we don't have to be harvesting every crop at the same time... the same also applies for planting.
The main reason we chose to grow spring beans rather than spring OSR is due to pigeons! They are a constant pest and would have required us to spend additional time scaring them away on a regular basis... There will (fingers crossed) be a couple of short video clips of the drill in action on YouTube soon (http://www.youtube.com/user/farmingmatters) if I can work out how to edit/change the file the videos are saved as! Hopefully tomorrow should see the drilling finished until it’s time to drill the maize and game covers at the end of April/early May.
I seem to have lost a few days or time in the evenings at least... but for no particular reason, maybe its stsying lighter for longer now? I think Spring is definitley getting here now, everything is starting to grow and there's a woodpecker constantly making a noise somewhere near the yard at home - so much so I'm expecting to find the tree cut in half soon.
The OSR is also starting to grow at last... resulting in pigeons now taking much more of an interest, does it taste better when its actively growing or is it just more visible to them now its getting bigger? - maybe their lazy birds and dont like having to walk a foot between plants to get a decent lunch!
Anyhow, whats been going on?
The answer I'm afraid is not much.. it was still too wet to allow any form of field work until early this week. So I spent most of Friday collecting soil samples - not the most exciting job on the farm, but an important one.. I managed to get 10 out of the 17 fields we want to sample done.. so over the next week or so I hope to be able to get the last few done; and a short bit about soil sampling here.
The end of last week, and the weekend finally saw some better drying conditions so yesterday we were able to continue putting the first application of fertiliser onto the second wheats (and a couple of fields of later drilled, struggling first wheats)
Hopefully over the next few days/week the weather will continue to dry the fields out abit so that we can get the wheat with blackgrass problems sprayed; having not been able too last autumn, and also get the game covers topped and ploughed up to allow them to get some free cultivation from the weather before they have to be drilled! We'll also be itching to get some ploughing springtined very soon and the Spring Beans drilled...