Farmer Focus: Spring beans likely to be abandoned for cover crop

It has stopped raining at long last and fertiliser applications and spraying can be caught up with, but spring drilling is unlikely to proceed just yet.

Frustrating as that is, I can’t help but empathise with livestock farmers this winter and spring.

We arable farmers cannot honestly say the weather is going to lead to loss of life, as we have heard with outdoor lambing units for example. We do not have to go out in all weathers to feed and tend.

See also: Read more from our arable Farmer Focus writers

In fact, we can stay in the office or workshop and actively find dry and warm jobs without feeling guilty.

Our horse livery clients have been very understanding about the limited turnout on to grazing which we have allowed these past weeks.

Essex clay is not forgiving of horses’ hooves when wet, and from what I have observed, the horses don’t really want to be there anyhow if it is raining.

They spend much of their time hanging around the gate waiting to be taken in to their dry and warm stable.

Left in the shed

One of the many benefits of our Monitor Farm involvement is benchmarking. We have a much better handle on our costs of production and know what yield we need to show a positive margin.

Therefore, it is looking quite likely that our spring bean seed will stay in the shed until spring 2019.

Last year was a very good year for the crop, but it had a much better start than it might get if we proceed with it this year.

Drilling in late April is far too late for a respectable yield so the land which was earmarked for beans is likely to be in a cover crop instead.

We are still optimistic of getting the spring barley, naked oats and millet in the ground, but we will have to be patient. The soil is still very wet and tender.

The oilseed rape is now approaching full flower, and as Hew reminded me, before we put the sclerotinia fungicide on, we should really put the row crop wheels on the Househam sprayer. Eek!


Christy Willett farms with her son Hew on 475ha at Parklands Farm, Galleywood in Essex, growing combinable crops alongside diversifications into horse stables on DIY livery, industrial and office lets. Christy and Hew are also AHDB Chelmsford Monitor Farmers.