Farmer Focus: New kit put to work as spring drilling starts

Spring has officially arrived. We have had a couple of (unofficial) false starts, but it is finally here so we had better start looking busy.

I have heard mixed reports about how well autumn pre-emergence and post-emergence herbicide programmes have worked to control blackgrass this year.

On the whole here they have been exceptionally good and coupled with other cultural controls the number of blackgrass plants to be found is very low.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

Oilseed rape is now well on its way skywards, although some has been slowed down by pigeons, and now cabbage stem flea beetle larvae.

Bigger plants, which luckily are the majority, seem unaffected by the flea beetle larvae so hopefully the overall impact will be low.

It does raise a concern going forward to this harvest however – neonic seed dressing or not, it will be a numbers game similar to blackgrass, where chemistry will not be the silver bullet.

Spring drilling is in full swing now with the 6m 750a and 6930 combination proving to be a nice-sized outfit, although slightly more power would be handy when planting spring beans at a decent depth.

As predicted nearly half of its workload for this spring is on cultivated ground, where it preforms equally as well with low disturbance as it does when direct drilling.

I have been lucky enough to be asked to be one of the judges for this year’s Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year award, a job I’m very much looking forward too.

When I took part in the competition in 2014 I learned a great deal from it, it boosted my confidence in what I knew about the job and I picked up some useful tips to help make the job easier and safer.

I am hoping the same can be said this year. It is a great little competition to showcase how professional UK sprayer operators are, especially in the current climate of potential product restrictions and bans.

It will not be long until the sprayer is busy applying T0s to wheat, but with commodity prices close, or below the cost of production it is going to be a fine balancing act between cost saving and maintaining yield potential.

Let us hope it is a kind spring with low disease levels.

Matt Redman operates a farming and agricultural contracting business specialising in crop spraying, Avadex application and direct drilling in Bedfordshire. He also grows cereals on a small area of tenancy land and was Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year in 2014.

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