Farmer Focus Arable: Crops show signs of stress, says David Shepherdson

The winter wheat and barley are both showing signs of stress, following yet another dry month. It’s almost certainly too late to help the winter barley, as any rain now would just wash all the unused nitrogen into the ears.

The spring barley has hardly moved in a month and the spring oilseed rape has come through with a nice even plant stand, but desperately needs a drink to get it moving upwards and out of the reach of the pigeons.

The one crop that does look nice and even in full flower is the winter rape although, as with all the other crops, we will struggle to get good pod-fill without some rain.

We have just about caught up with all the spraying until T2 is needed. Due to the drought and reduced likelihood of disease, we will be able to make some welcome savings on our fungicide bill. Days are now being spent heightening the block walling in the temporary grain store and extending others where old and tired wooden boards previously stood.

Thoughts are beginning to turn towards next year’s rotations and again it will be geared towards first wheats. We will continue with a heavily reduced area of malting barley due to the absence of a contract offering a break-even price, let alone a profit.

This area of land will be cropped with second wheats – the upside being the availability of herbicides to control sterile brome and black grass. This is an ever-increasing problem on our land which is simply too thin to plough.

The decision has finally been reached on a replacement tractor for all our cultivation work. With the sad demise of the Case International brand, we initially changed to McCormick, which proved less than satisfactory and became our final British-built tractor. After much searching and many quotes, we have settled on another Valtra. Time will tell if this choice was right.

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