Farmer Focus: The joys of spring cropping on heavy land

It feels like spring is finally here. The Easter eggs have all been eaten, spring beans are up and are just about visible in row and the oilseed rape has gone into overdrive.

See also: Read more from our arable Farmer Focus writers

So far, things look well and I resisted the urge to start early with the T0 fungicide and growth regulator, opting to keep as short a gap as sensible between each fungicide application through the growing season, working back from flag leaf emergence.

Finger crossed, then.

The highlight of our bank holiday weekend was a visit to our local point-to-point on Monday. I never consider myself lucky, however I think my luck hit new lows when it came to backing horses.

We started the afternoon by studying form, casting a critical eye over the horses’ confirmation and following tipsters’ advice,but to no avail.

By the end of the afternoon, we had spent up, with our best result being second place on a horse we backed because we thought it looked like a donkey.

Oh the joys of spring cropping on heavy land. One minute the Quadtrac and drill are stuck, the next I’m calling for the rolls to stop seed-beds drying out – and that was the same field on the same day.

Although I’m convinced our new rotation is right, getting an even larger area of spring cropping done well next year will take some serious cunning and guile, not to mention a large helping of patience.

Those of you who know me, know how hard that will be.

I’m sure like everyone else I watched the leaders’ debate on television the other night. Now, in my mind there was a clear winner who, for fairness, I can’t mention (bloke on the right with a blue tie).

However, I believe the world’s press must have been watching another programme – disgraceful – so I’ve penned my grievances to Anne Robinson on Watchdog. That will show them.


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.