Farmer Focus: Harvest’s early… time for a holiday

Well what a turn-up for the books. Harvest arrived very suddenly indeed and by the time you read this I’ll be somewhere near half cut and planning a holiday in August, writes Robert Nightingale.

I joke, of course. I don’t really want to tempt fate that much. There is no denying, though, that I’ve cleared a large acreage of crop already and given my low area of OSR that is a blessing.

Wheat harvest in July at 12% moisture and above average yields is a lovely feeling – just such a shame that it isn’t only the UK that has been blessed by good weather and worldwide prices are in near freefall.

Catch up with all our arable Farmer Focus writers

My attention now turns to OSR establishment. Bearing in mind current values it was a long-thought-out process to settle on growing mostly high-erucic acid rapeseed (Hear) with a small block of Charger to keep some varietal interest and risk management.

I’ve ordered a fairly lumpy pre-em and split out a couple of graminicides and residuals to go in at cotyledon and two-true-leaf stage to make me feel better about spraying insecticide at each of those timings.

The truth of how bad flea beetle damage will be will come in time but otherwise it will be pyrethroids until resistance is found.

With metazachlor – a product that is too cheap not to use at full rate for some – stewardship will be high on the agenda this autumn, too. I do think there are other chemicals where money could be better spent so I’ll drop 250-500g of active ingredient this year and wait to see how well the others do.

Metaldehyde stewardship also needs focus. I’ll be reducing use by applying both metaldehyde and ferric phosphate as a mix, increasing bait points, not active ingredient.

The biggest, and possibly cheapest, change I’ll be making to OSR establishment is a management call – drilling into moisture in a fortnight window at the end of August, when till-cast and rolling twice can be easily achieved, will be essential.

It is just unfortunate that this increased OSR pressure from beetles, aphids and weeds all comes in a year with high slug pressure and very poor prices. At least with OSR you never know what to expect.

Robert Nightingale manages 600ha of combinable cropping across Sentry’s operations in Sussex and Surrey. Cropping includes winter wheat, oats, oilseed rape, linseed, peas and soon beans.