FARMER FOCUS: Finalising next year’s cropping plans

Harvest has kicked off for some, but most of us are still playing the waiting game – with the annoying sound of someone else’s combine working in the distance.

If you do nothing else before you start, at least take the time to stand back and look at your farm, staff and planned harvest operations and ask yourself “how safe are we?”.

During the rush and stress of getting harvest completed and new crops established, it’s all too easy to cut corners or overlook something – hot weather means electric wires could be lower than usual, or maybe the new combine is higher.

While having a quick discussion with others working on the farm – especially harvest students – about general health and safety, specific harvest issues and what to do in an emergency isn’t much fun, it could stop unwanted downtime, stress and cost. Scarily, considering we’re only gathering food, it could also be life-saving.

The oilseed rape was sprayed off on 22 July, but some of the second wheats are changing fast. Spring oilseed rape and barley are looking good, but like everything, only time will tell whether or not looks are deceiving.

Next year’s cropping is almost finalised, with a reduced oilseed rape area to make room for some winter beans that will be grown for seed. DK Cabernet has been a good performer for the past three years, but next year we’ll also be growing some Quartz alongside it to see how it compares.

Wheat varieties will stay the same, with Target and Invicta. Our biggest issue is that the worst fields on the farm for resistant blackgrass will be going into first wheat this autumn and although about 99% control was achieved last winter, massive spring germination has brought us back to where we started.

Hopefully, dormancy will be low, so multiple stale seed-beds will provide good control, along with variable seed rates – by manually increasing in problem areas – and a robust pre-emergence strategy. If conditions are favourable for good ploughing that may also be deployed, as the ground hasn’t seen a plough for five or six years.

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

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