FARMER FOCUS: Drill comes to Andy Barr’s rescue

We finished drilling on 10 October, which was a bit of luck as it started raining that evening and the next 25 days have yielded 192mm of rain

 Holding off on the pre-emergence sprays because it was too dry seems an aeon ago, but the resulting early post-emergence timing seems to have worked well.

Last to be direct drilled were some oats after wheat and, where we hadn’t baled the straw, our tined drill struggled with blocking.

Luckily a Great Plains Spartan disc drill came to the rescue. The trash was no problem for it and emergence is great, although hair-pinning of straw in the seed slot is evident. Intriguingly, I am advised that this is absolutely no problem at all, and also conversely, that it will badly effect rooting and tillering.

I was tempted into drilling a little winter wheat seed left over from last year, after it passed germination and tetrazolium viability and vigour tests with flying colours, but the resulting plants are lacking a bit of “oomph”.

The speedy efficacy of Centurion Max (clethodim) on my worst blackgrass patch in oilseed rape has been a revelation and it would be a bonus if we could carefully keep it going for a few years before the inevitable resistance bites. Despite a disaster last year, we also have a small area of companion crop again in some OSR, mainly containing vetches.

I was daft enough to put some where a patch of runch has emerged and so now we have an unintended trial on the effect of Fox (bifenox) on companion crops – so far some of the vetch is speckled, but the runch looks dreadful and the OSR is fine.

Cover crops are growing well and are due to be grazed by a crack division of sheep in order to convert them into something with more ready fertility. As usual, the fastest growing part of the mixture are the oats, but the tillage radish is also making a good showing and I can’t wait to see how big its roots will get.

Andy Barr farms 630ha on a mixed family farm in Kent, including 430ha mainly of winter wheat, oilseed rape and spring barley. The rest is in an OELS scheme and grazing for 500 Romney ewes and 40 Sussex cattle

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