Farmer Focus: Extra sprays to combat flea beetle

It didn’t take me long to establish a self-imposed rule when writing these pieces – don’t talk about the weather, because between the date of writing and the date it appears in print you can guarantee it will go from one extreme to the other.

At the time of writing, things are pretty dry. So far the oilseed rape has been feeding flea beetles very well – in places it’s a borderline crop, but it has had as many passes with the sprayer as most crops usually have by Christmas.

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For once pigeons are, in a way, a welcome sight as it means there must be some plants there. I won’t mention slugs, as I’m sure they will arrive soon – they’re just a bit slow.

I’m painting a rather bleak picture so far. Add to that the fact that stale seed-beds aren’t going well without moisture and you could be forgiven for wondering why we bother. However, we like a challenge. Wouldn’t it be boring if things were easy?

It’s not all bad news, though. In the past we’ve had oilseed rape plants continue to germinate into October and on inspection there are still seeds that haven’t germinated yet.

Wheat seed-beds are the best I’ve ever seen – stubbles cultivated well and worked down with relative ease. They just need the P-word – patience.

That should provide us with a good flush of weeds to glyphosate pre-drilling as well as fine, firm conditions after the drill for the robust pre-emergence chemistry that’s been packed into the chemical store for months.

After hearing stories of chemical ordered in July that still hasn’t arrived, having it all in the way for a few months doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

While some elements of farming are not great at the moment – whether it is prices, pests or the battle with blackgrass, it is reassuring to know that the next generation (can I say that at my age?) aren’t fazed by the challenges and are keen to get stuck in.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Adam Horsfield for his help over the summer – as my first harvest student it was great to have someone who worked hard, was eager to learn and completed work to a high standard.

Matt Redman operates an agricultural contracting business and helps out on the family farm at Lower Gravenhurst, Bedfordshire. The 210ha farm grows mainly wheat, oilseed rape and beans.