Farmer Focus Arable: Drilling error creates ‘flag’ for Allan Chambers

For the first time in five weeks we have a decent forecast. It was a difficult May, but my crops look reasonable with the only iffy areas confined to the working headlands on three fields of spring barley (see below).

Septoria tritici in wheat remains at low levels. This crop always amazes me with its ability to compensate where establishment has been poor. Recently I found an isolated seed which had produced 14 strong tillers.

The straw market’s started early this year with a call from an 83-year-old man who wants to up his normal order of 150 big square bales for feeding bulls to 300. He got a cheque for £79,000 for the 100-strong forward stores he fed last winter and wants to double up for next year.

Forage maize has all germinated and weed control is satisfactory except for one strip yours truly missed with the sprayer. With all commodity prices rising and all silos in Ulster empty, this crop will be in demand. Unfortunately our main customers, dairy farmers, are suffering lousy returns. My sympathy for their plight is genuine, but I do remember recently producing grain for less than cost in successive years.

By the time you read this I hope we’ll have started on 30ha of Italian ryegrass for Haylage, sold as “Giant Haystacks” – five big square bales on a pallet. Last year’s quality was superb and we need to maintain that standard.

Mistake of the month: When drilling spring barley we always cultivate the whole field first, then drill leaving the marked headlands. We then re-cultivate these, and drill them last.

This year the ground was in such good condition we didn’t re-cultivate, simply drilling the headlands last. Result? The national flag of the Republic of Ireland is plain to see -green, white, and yellowish gold.

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