Farmer Focus: Philip Reck, February column

January turned out wet. The land is saturated and it’s noticeable that little ploughing has been done.

We can only hope that the wet start will give us a dry spring when we really need it.

Winter crops will receive potash as soon as ground conditions improve to be firm enough to avoid us leaving wheelings with the spreader. They look well and are forward for this time of year, which will bring the timing of the growth regulator forward as well.

It has been noted that mildew is becoming more prevalent in winter oats, especially autumn-sown spring varieties, though our own Jalna has remained clean.

Climate change is giving us milder winters and this is the second year that this problem has been encountered. It raises the question of whether a fungicide could be justified in the autumn.

Last autumn we had a demonstrator Vaderstad Seed Hawk direct drill. We have been practising minimum tillage for eight years now and direct drilling seems to be the next step in cost reduction.

Results have been favourable, but I feel this system will need to be implemented in conjunction with the min-till to help ease the transition, as it certainly poses new problems. Most notable of these are increased slug pressure..

Some method of shallow discing will be necessary to germinate any volunteers and grassweeds in the short window from harvesting to planting.

Some careful thought will be required to see how best to adapt our establishment system to bring direct drilling into the regime.

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