Dry weather mixed blessing for Allan Chambers

Allan Chambers farms 270ha (670 acres) of medium stony loam at Tullynaskeagh Farm, Co Down, with brother David growing cereals, grass for haylage, maize and potatoes

It’s official: We have had the driest May and early June in this part of the British Isles.

Having spent the afternoon walking up potato fields with our packer’s agronomist, Gert, the conclusion was that we are almost at crisis point.

Weed control has been poor, with residuals not working on the parched soils, leaving annual meadowgrass and late-emerging knotgrass as potential problems. Extra control is impossible, as crops are under too much stress.

Our 10 acres of main crop Melody has severe rhizoctonia. This is new to our farm and, apparently, linked to warm dry weather. But if rain comes soon the other crops should be ok.

The dry, sunny weather has allowed 30ha of Giant Haystacks haylage to be completed in record time. Quality is superb, but costs are 39% up on last year. The retail price increase, according to the government is 3.5%. Either someone can’t count or I have lost it.

The cereals have loved growing in Mediterranean Ulster, and disease levels are at an all-time low. This year we gave up hand-roguing wild oats on the worst-affected parts of the farm. Grasp (tralkoxydim) seems to have done a tremendous job. It’s a pity it costs so much.

Forage maize thinks it’s growing in the tropics and doesn’t seem to need rain. Bumper crop? It’s too early to say. Field yields will be accurately monitored, as we’re doing a trial with different rates and types of organic manures.

Mistake of the month: I didn’t open the trapdoor on the bottom of the seed-drill hopper when I’d finished drilling spring barley. Luckily, I heard and then released the trapped mouse before he gnawed his way out by chewing the metering device beyond repair as his great grandfather did six years ago.

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