Farmer Focus: David Shepherdson questions his planting regime

Usually by now I expect our fields to be greened-over. Instead we’re still drilling into less than ideal seed-beds. Ploughing has been the only way to get the soil to dry, with most fields needing an extra power-harrow pass.

I began drilling at 146kg/ha but a second seed batch needed 165kg/ha to attain the same sown count. The cost is the same per ton but we cover two acres less. So I believe the price of seed should relate to its thousand-grain weight.

With wheat below the £100/t mark, one questions whether to plant anything. With seed, sprays and fertiliser more expensive than ever, £150/t is needed, especially on our marginal land which even in a good year yields only 3t/acre.

The loss of IPU has brought about a rethink on spraying and our large barley area is causing problems.

The first plan was to use a pre-emergence spray, but frequent showers soon turned our freshly drilled land to pudding, leaving us no option but plan B – some very costly post-emergence treatments.

One good thing about drilling late is the control we get over brome, which cannot be tackled with chemicals in barley. By late October it stops germinating.

I seem to be fighting a battle against a plague of rats at the moment – more than I have ever seen so early in the season. I have already used as much bait as I did in the whole of last winter, but I won’t be beaten and a zero-tolerance policy is now firmly in place.

With the clocks about to turn back, we can settle into our winter routine with more time at home at the weekends. It certainly makes me more popular with my better half when I put in an appearance before the kids have gone to bed.

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