Farmer Focus: David Shepherdson has healthy crops despite sodden soils

All drilling is now finished, with the last fields of barley just beginning to emerge through this miserable, cold rain we’ve been subjected to over the last fortnight.

I had a good walk around all the fields with our agronomist last week to see what was needed. Much of the spraying will be left until the spring to deal with any blackgrass that comes through late in the season.

On the whole the wheat and barley looked pretty healthy considering the sodden seed-beds they went into.

The rape, however, is causing a little more concern from the road some crops look very small for going into winter, but closer inspection reveals plenty of strong plants.

But one of our fields is in the middle of one of the estate’s main pheasant drives and, regrettably, our smaller-than-we-would-like plants have been obliterated by the birds.

We have never claimed for pheasant damage in the past, some inevitable damage around hedge backs and headlands happens most years, but with the costs of establishing rape higher now than ever before, field size losses simply cannot be withstood. I am sure a fair outcome will be agreed promptly.

In future, we will put this field into a spring break crop by which stage the pheasants will have gone.

The RSPB is reporting a decline in the population of farmland birds. I think I can easily explain this phenomenon, as every bird of prey in North Yorkshire seems to have migrated to our farm.

We observe numerous kestrels on a daily basis and spotted a buzzard while out crop walking the other day. We even watched a sparrow hawk dive down and kill a seagull when we were ploughing.

As well as these magnificent birds of prey, we are frequently visited by herons – as many as four at a time, walking up and down behind the drill searching for worms perhaps there is a decline in the population of fish in our streams, as well as birds in our fields.


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