Farmer Focus: Patience pays off with blackgrass control

For once, it seems being patient has not been the wrong choice. Delaying drilling until mid-to-late October meant there was an opportunity to get a reasonable pre-drilling blackgrass kill and on the whole, drilling conditions have still been good – the last of the wheat was drilled on 27 October in very good conditions.

Pre-emergence sprays have also all been applied to good soil conditions so should, I hope, give good control.

Flea beetle has caused a headache, with multiple passes through the oilseed rape to keep them under control. We have been lucky compared with some however, and have only written off 2ha following grass. Slow establishment due to the dry September coupled with the flea beetle pressure means it is likely to be a very patchy crop.

See also: Read more from our Farmer Focus writers

Hedgecutting next year is not something I’m looking forward too. It looks like there may be some good news, with a derogation possibly going to be available for land going into oilseed rape so at least some work can be done in August.

However, it will still make things difficult and push work into an already tight time frame – more than likely resulting in hedges being hit harder to lengthen the time before they need cutting again, and reduce workloads – both having negative effects.

Things are just starting to calm down after a busy summer/autumn, so the focus now is prioritising the “winter projects”. I think the first on the list will be to further improve the big induction hopper I use to fill the sprayer – it really saves filling time and eases can rinsing but needs a few tweaks.

The second, rather large, project will be to look at the Avadex application side of the business and decide on a second applicator, ideally wider than 24m – a task that will no doubt involve some substantial fabrication work.

I’ve been lucky enough to gain a place on the NFU cereals development programme, so along with the winter projects I’m looking forward to a number of days away over the next few months learning more about the cereals sector of the industry, how to use different methods of grain selling, looking at end markets in more detail and seeing how European decisions effect the markets and cereals sector in the UK.

Matt Redman operates an agricultural contracting business and is the 2014 Syngenta Farm Sprayer Operator of the year. He also helps out on the 210ha family farm at Lower Gravenhurst, Bedfordshire, which grows mainly wheat, oilseed rape and beans.