Farmer Focus: Organic matter test shows room for improvement

This month saw the results of some organic matter (OM) testing done on our arable and grassland. The farm was split into three, with three fields being selected from each area to test.

The results made for very interesting reading, showing that the area of land that has been in-hand for a longer period of time actually had higher OM levels, ranging between 5% and 6%.

Meanwhile, the other two areas of the farm showed levels to be between 3% and 4%, so there’s room for improvement there.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

We can now try to put a strategy in place as to how we can improve our OM levels. Rotating different OM types seems to be the answer as this will allow the soil biology to get a varied diet.

A brief glimpse of winter allowed a small amount of propyzamide to be applied to some oilseed rape in mid-January.

The reoccurring wet conditions prompted me to upgrade the tyres on the sprayer from terra-tyres with little grip to a set of 540/85 R24 cleated tyres.

Luckily, I managed to find a second-hand set in good condition and so far I been very pleased with them.

Grain prices are still not exciting and so far only a third of our wheat has been sold.

Spring oats and peas on contract are moving out slowly – they have done us well once again this year. The peas for the fourth year in a row have been the crop with highest gross margin.

Elsewhere on the farm, lambing is the top priority and is now in full swing – by the time you read this we should be 60% of the way through our 1,000 ewes.

The lambs are a good size at birth and, unlike other years, the lambing percentage seems to be greater than our scanning percentage, as a number of ewes scanned for twins are having triplets.

We just need a bit of drier weather now to get a few more turned out as space is becoming precious.

Jack Hopkins is the assistant farm manager on a 730ha estate in north Herefordshire on predominantly silty clay loam soils. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, spring oats and peas, plus grassland that supports a flock of 1,000 ewes and 25 pedigree Hereford cattle.

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