Farmer Focus Arable: Keith Challen starts new job at Belvoir

Well, it’s a list of firsts this month, starting with a week’s holiday at harvest – previously unheard of in the Challen household. I’ve decided I’m not built for surfing… something about my centre of gravity.

This report comes during my first week at Belvoir Fruit Farms. I managed to arrive just before the completion of the rape harvest with yields being respectable and no single variety any better than the other. Subsoiler-established rape suffered from the drought more than the Autocast crops, which surprised me until I saw the cracks in the ground, wide enough to get your hand in and a foot deep.

Cultivations are well under way with a Case Quadtrac pulling a Simba Solo cultivator and press with varying results. Oilseed rape established last year with the subsoiler is giving a far coarser finish this year than the Autocast, showing that cultivation decisions can be far-reaching. So far there has been no sign of the pesky grey slug, but I’m sure as soon as it rains they will start to put in an appearance.

Rape varieties for the coming year will major on DK-Cabernet, DK-Expower, Ovation and Sesame, predominantly Autocast from the combine along with a small dose of metaldehyde with the subsoiler employed if necessary.

The wheat harvest is ready to go once this band of rain has moved through, starting with cordiale.

I can’t help but feel a bit bullish as I write this, as the recent upturn in commodities prices is quite staggering. If only we’d had a crystal ball last winter. I guess like most arable businesses some cover was taken pre-Christmas at what was considered a good price. Little did we expect wheat to go crashing through that magical £150/t barrier.

PS: if anyone knows the concave setting for elderflowers on a Lexion 580, please email me.


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