Farmer Focus Arable: Bill Davey ponders next year’s cropping plans

Trying to visualise a clearer picture of what we should be growing next spring is no easy task at the moment. Malting barley and vining pea areas will, if anything be reduced, and to date the flour mills have given no indication as to their requirements let alone a price for soft and gristing wheats.

Thinking a little outside the square, I am considering sowing high quality summer feed for store lambs on land which would have been sown with barley or peas. These feed crops may well be pure stands of multi-graze turnips or chicory.

Establishing these crops in the spring will allow us to finish summer lambs and then following their departure, early autumn lambs when they are usually cheaper to buy. The reason for this is that most arable farmers only have feed available post harvest, which takes time to establish, by which time stores have become far more expensive. It’s quite simply a supply and demand situation.

As I am writing this piece, it’s a beautiful autumn morning and out of the office window I can see Dutch company Royal Van Zanten starting to lift lilly bulbs in the field next to our house with near perfect ground conditions, allowing them to make good progress. We will sow this with wheat once the ground is cleared, sometime in August.

From time to time we are asked to host agricultural tour groups and only last week we had a group of mature students from Kansas University. Listening to their account of farming in the USA, where many of them grew maize, sorghum, alfalfa and cotton were the most interesting. But the one thing I soon realised we had most in common was the need to irrigate. Talking to one farmer, he had 5300ha under irrigation. I shuddered to think what his electricity bill must have been.

• For more columns from other Arable Farmer Focus writers

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