FARMER FOCUS: Spraying is main harvest challenge

So, the rain I’d hoped for last month never arrived. Well, not until the day of the Henley and District Agricultural Society’s annual ploughing match, which this year was a week later than usual on 13 October. Then it rained for most of the day.

Despite the weather, there was a great turnout of more than 40 ploughmen. Unfortunately we were unable to run some of our ancillary events that we stage at the same time. The vintage machinery display and the log-chopping competition were just two of the casualties. Still, a big thank-you is in order for all the people who worked so hard to make it a success despite the rain. We will be back next year even bigger and better on 5 October.

The cereal drilling campaign this year lasted 15 days, with only a couple of minor breakdowns holding us up. The biggest challenge was for me to keep ahead with the glyphosate spraying and then the follow-up pre-emergence herbicide.

Crops were emerging in less than a week with sufficient moisture at seed depth and above-average soil temperatures. The problem has been the surface drying out very rapidly, which is not the ideal situation for the pre-emergences. Hopefully the rain we’ve had will activate the herbicides and there is still sufficient active ingredient to do something to the emerging weeds.

The oilseed rape has now had two doses of graminicide to keep on top of the barley volunteers that otherwise would be competing for the little moisture in the soil. In some fields we have two distinct crops: one at four to five leaves where it got the moisture and the other just emerging.

I am currently struggling with the decision about whether to renew our self-propelled sprayer. We cannot justify a new one and good second-hand ones are few and far between. I am tempted to go down the trailed route this time, which will make future decisions much easier, as I will only be changing either a spray unit or an engine unit and not both at the same time.

Simon Beddows manages 1,000ha of arable land at Dunsden Green, south Oxfordshire. Cropping is cereals, oilseed rape, beans and forage maize.

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