Farmer Focus: January sees quarter of yearly rain

Right, let’s compare the rain gauge measurements and see who wins in the rainfall figures for January. I’m putting in a modest 213mm for the month. This means we’ll have had just over one-quarter of our average year’s rainfall.

I say an average year, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. I’m sure there are many others in worse positions and I give my wholehearted condolences to them.

For us the rain hasn’t done any major damage, although there is a whole host of fieldwork to do and not a hope of being able to get on the ground for a fortnight.

No, we haven’t got certain herbicides on a few blocks of land, but with the rain being enough at a time to cause small floods, this is no bad thing in light of another lost active ingredient (methiocarb).

The crops are only really showing signs of stress now, compared with last year when there were no crops and pigeons covering the ground instead of oilseed rape.

The stress is mainly waterlogging, with an inability to get to the nutrients the crops need, which will clear once it warms up properly. With hindsight, I’m actually hoping all this rain now means we’ll have a more balanced weather year ahead. Optimism of youth and all that…

We’ve had a busy week at Sentry with our company meeting, conference and technical day from Agrovista. These days provide plenty of opportunity to network, exchange ideas and get excited about the year ahead.

I used to think it was planned at this time of year as farming is generally quiet. However, is also manages to give farmers enthusiasm for the year, with the majority of winter over and getting ready to hit the ground running in spring.

In spring – a word I hope to use in March rather than May this year – I will be growing peas for the first time and “naked” oats, which are both on area contracts, giving us a good amount of security against the weather, which is becoming more valuable in recent years.

I’m also managing risk from the weather by having a mixture of cultivations, with ploughed ground and stubbles, depending on how the weather plays out. Each crop gives alternative ground conditions to travel on. I hope to let you know how this panned out in my next article.

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.

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