Disease prompts rotation re-jig for Richard Beachell

Richard Beachell farms in a joint venture with his neighbour at Bainton near Driffield, East Yorks. The 380ha block is a medium to heavy Wold soil growing milling wheat, malting barley, oilseed rape & vining peas for Birds Eye.

Winter barley harvest got off to a good start on 25 July, yielding a pleasing 8.4t/ha, with nitrogen below 1.5%. All the grain had left the farm by the end of the month. The straw was in the barn before any rain, so we felt rather pleased with ourselves.

The pleasure was short-lived once we pulled into oilseed rape. A couple of times around the first field suggested it would disappoint.

Sclerotinia hit the farm for the first time with a vengeance and is proving a potent robber, the yield just scraping 3.5t/ha.

On my joint-venture neighbour Nick’s farm, with his one-year-in-eight rotation, sclerotinia levels are noticeably lower and yields higher, although it’s clearly not a rape year.

So we’ve decided to gradually move to an eight-course rotation at Field House because patches of foot rot in vining peas also indicate that a wider gap is needed.

A quick spreadsheet plan has reorganised our block cropping and a fairly seamless transition to the new rotation will commence immediately.

Vining pea yields in the Birds Eye group have been excellent, exceeding predictions. This is truly farmer collaboration at its best, as the highly efficient operation delivers the 150-minute pea to the supermarket shelf.

We’re always looking for opportunities to co-operate to cut costs. A central grain storage venture would be of greatest interest to us, as our 40-year-old driers are running out of steam (as is the operator on a hot summer day) and casual labour gets harder to find.

Yorkshire seems to be the only region without a farmer-owned central grain store in operation.

But if the sun shines for the rest of the wheat harvest I’m sure that I’ll kid myself that the drier will be OK for yet another year.


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