8 October 1999

EASTON LODGE

Rain proves welcome

THE farm is looking well at the moment, because of the rain rather than in spite of it.

We started drilling oilseed rape at the end of August moving onto wheat on Sept 5 and pausing four days later having completed 41.82ha (103 acres).

The land had been prepared for drilling in several ways.

The barley and wheat stubbles had been ploughed, pressed and rolled before power harrow/combination drilling Madrigal oilseed rape.

It is noticeable that the rape sown after winter barley, five days in advance of that sown after wheat on Sept 2, is streets ahead.

All have received slug pellets and insecticide against cabbage stem flea beetle, but the later drilling still looks backward by comparison.

We had some reservations when it came to drilling wheat in such dry conditions at the beginning of September, but with moisture at seed depth we pressed on and hoped for rain.

Seed rates were increased slightly to take account of seed-bed conditions and ended up at 155 seeds/sq m.

Seed-beds following winter linseed were ploughed, pressed and rolled to bury the straw and those following oilseed rape and peas were disced twice and rolled down.

The only exception to this was 18.57ha (46 acres) of land after oilseed rape which was disced a third time to make a little more tilth using a 230hp John Deere 8200T on rubber tracks, hired for a couple of days from Sharmans our local dealer in Stamford.

This was quite an impressive bit of kit which had already sub-soiled 19.56ha (48 acres) of stubbles spread with farmyard manure and destined for sugar beet next year.

We had a series of rainy days in mid-Sept that soaked well into the seedbeds allowing seed, that had previously laid dormant since drilling, to chit and catch up with the rest of the field.

No chances with slugs

As with the oilseed rape, we have taken no chances with slugs this year with some areas receiving two doses of 10kg/ha (4kg/acre) of mini-pellets.

The rain has allowed us to drill a further 11.07ha (27 acres) of Malacca wheat on Sept 17 at an increased seed rate of 180 seeds/sq m or 88.5kg/ha (36kg/acre), although a thunderstorm soon after we pulled out of the field prevented us from Cambridge rolling.

This completes our wheat drilling until we have harvested part of our sugar beet area and totals 52.89ha (131 acres).

Since then we have attempted to make a start with sowing Maris Otter winter barley. The field is partly wheat stubble, partly spring barley stubble and partly following set-aside and totals 25.64ha (63 acres).

The stubbles have been disced post-harvest to promote the growth of volunteers and subsequently sprayed with glyphosate and the set-aside land has been sub-soiled, disced and rolled.

Our intention will be to plough and press the stubbles ahead of the power harrow/drill combination and follow on with the latter only as we progress across the field on cultivated land.

A start was made on Sept 24 and rained off, Sept 29 and rained off, and as I write this report on Sept 30 we are progressing between showers.

Seed rate at the moment is 145kg/ha (59kg/acre) to sow 337 seeds/sq m.

Our next job will be to spray the wheats with a herbicide and insecticide against aphids carrying barley yellow dwarf virus.

The contractor has been booked for mid-October to lift the sugar beet.

This year it is all in one field alongside the farm track adjacent to the redundant silage clamps that we use for storage.

We plan to lift 7ha (17.3 acres) and follow up with the plough and drill leaving the rest until November when we must make a decision to either lift it all or in two more stages.

This very much depends on the weather and our place in the haulage rota. &#42

On the right track: Back in early Sept we hired a 230hp, rubber-tracked JD 8200T tractor from Sharmans to pull our five-leg sub-soiler through wheat stubbles destined for sugar beet. The land had been plastered with FYM from the pig unit and our 4WD tractor would have struggled in the wet conditions, explained John Lambkin. The tractor was also used to disc the rape land before it was drilled with wheat.