FARMER FOCUS: Patience rewarded over drillling

Three weeks ago I thought I was being patient. Now, the gremlins in my psyche tell me that I have been stubborn. While others were drilling their wheat, I was busy creating a third stale seed-bed for blackgrass control.

The land was so dry and hard that the thought of applying my pre-emergence herbicide to a dry, cloddy seed-bed filled me with horror, especially this year as I am solely relying on a pre/peri-emergence grassweed strategy.

But I feel I have been vindicated and the gremlins proved wrong, as the latest blackgrass count shows I currently have 11,700 plants/sq m. This gives me a total kill of about 20,000 plants/sq m in places since the oilseed rape was harvested, which can only do good in the long run. The only issue in the short term, is that no wheat has yet been drilled, although I am not unduly panicking yet.

An interesting lesson for all those debating what to do with their early-drilled wheat is that the above levels are being found in a field which had wheat two years ago. In this field I applied glyphosate only to the worst patches in that April. You can still see the mark where the glyphosate had been applied and where it hadn’t. One area is bright green and one is brown.

Every day I hear of more good wheat crops that need destroying, due to the high levels of blackgrass infestation, and I can say with utmost certainty that if I had drilled before the rain, 40% of my wheat area would require redrilling if best practice was to be followed. This problem is not going away, and unfortunately, at the moment neither is the rain.

The view from the house is just what I wanted at this time of year. The oilseed rape is at the top of my wellies, the land destined for beans is greening up with blackgrass and volunteers, and the wheat land is a vivid green. Almost perfection!

Will Howe farms 384ha of medium to heavy land at Ewerby Thorpe Farm, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire, growing wheat, oilseed rape and winter beans

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