Farmer Focus: Preparation for next year’s harvest in full swing

I’m going to start by putting my hands up and saying sorry for tempting fate in my last piece.

No sooner had I sent the article off than we had a hurricane blow in, opening the door to that autumnal feel earlier than expected.

This, along with our combine showing its age a little, effectively cancelled my August holiday, but thanks to a great team effort we managed to avoid a possible sticky situation.

We now only have 16ha of spring oats left to cut and I’ve learned my lesson and won’t tempt fate in print again.

Even with Bertha, harvest has come in fairly dry, with a little bit of drying being done here and there. Although yields of wheat are up substantially, we’ve seen slightly lower quality than we’d have liked, particularly on Claire wheat with lower protein.

We are slightly behind with our oilseed rape drilling just rolling into September, but with weather conditions and everything going for it from now, I’d like to think it will still winter well.

Oilseed rape with the current poor price and the difficulties of establishment in all years, let alone without neonicotinoids, still warrants good preparation, but it just doesn’t feel as enjoyable to grow.

Wheat preparation is in full swing now though, with oilseed rape volunteers ready to spray off along with blackgrass. I’ve decided a deep cultivation was needed to establish good drainage, something often forgotten in blackgrass control.

Yes, a shallow, fast weed chit works well to reduce a big seed return, but the alternative is to get a wheat plant that will grow well and compete. Only time will tell on this.

Following a thoroughly good day at the Agrovista trials at Lamport, I will be growing a substantial amount of cover crops and not just for my CAP EFA points.

The mix is made up of clovers, vetch and black oats, which all provide an element of root growth and allow blackgrass to chit better than in fallow conditions alone.

The initial trial strips are staggering in their appearance and the idea ticks all the boxes – reducing bare ground time, increasing soil organic matter and helping control blackgrass populations. I’m ready to be amazed.

Robert Nightingale manages 600ha of combinable cropping across Sentry’s operations in Sussex and Surrey. Cropping includes winter wheat, oats, oilseed rape, linseed, peas and soon beans.

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