Farmer Focus: More spring crops to tackle blackgrass

A couple of years ago I said we were going to try spring drilling. This year, 25% of our arable acreage will be spring cropped.

As an all heavy land farmer I must be mad – it’s going to go from too wet to too dry in about two minutes, knowing this land.

So like a coiled spring we are poised to hit the ground running – both 8m Simba Freeflows have been serviced and are ready for action.

See also: Read more from our arable Farmer Focus writers

On the whole, crops have fared well over the winter, with the biggest problem being blackgrass in cereals.

Our agrochemical strategy has given mixed results, so the decision has been made to take out the worst bits and spring crop them.

I’m sure zero tolerance of blackgrass will pay in the end, even if it makes this year’s gross margin look awful.

All winter cereals and winter oilseed rape have had their first dressing of nitrogen and sulphur and look reasonable.

The rapeseed looks as if it is about to go into stem extension, so I think we will be back in with another dose in a couple of weeks.

It looks as if it is going to be a busy spring. Don’t worry, I informed my team that I will drive a tractor or even the new sprayer, but apparently, they will manage just fine!

It has been a busy winter with the move and kitting out a new workshop. The electricians finished this week and hopefully we can get a couple of split roof sheets swapped to finish phase one.

For the first time we can now work on several machines at once under cover – it’s like a revolution.

As you know, I like the finer things in life. There are few finer things than a good steak and they don’t come much finer than from Mike Shearstone’s Tanfield herd of Longhorns.

Nestled in quintessential Leicestershire within view of Belvoir Castle, the cattle live a near-idyllic life, until they end up on my plate. British agriculture at its finest.

Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Fruit Farms. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.

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