FARMER FOCUS: Time for wheat variety decisions

Harvest here at the Royston end is rumbling to a conclusion 40ha seed mustard to clear up today. We started growing this crop as an alternative spring-sown crop to peas three seasons ago, so far it has worked out well for us.


While wheat following peas always gave us the best yields, the problems with a succession of dry springs on our chalk soils meant that they were slow to get away. This led to the crop receiving the unwelcome attentions of pigeons who visited us in droves from the day we drilled the crop until harvest.


Despite growing mustard in fields this year surrounded by woods, we have had no problems in part helped by the fast growth of the crop and the fact pigeons find it rather unpalatable.


Overall, harvest here has been a lot easier than last year, with no grain having to be dried and none having to be sprayed off with glyphosate compared with 2012 when most were sprayed off. Bushel weights have been dramatically different with Carat barley exceeding our best wheat bushel weights in 2012.


With the seed dressers due in a week’s time, we need to decide what varieties for 2013.


This time, yields varied little despite varying previous cropping, drilling being spread over a two month period and differing soil types. Variety choice seemed to count for little either in final yields, but quality did.


The established trio of Consort, Wizard and Istabraq once again produced crops that stayed clean to the end and had the best bushel weights and grain size. Invicta and Tuxedo crops got very dirty at the finish and certainly produced a lot of black dust when being harvested. Tuxedo will be dropped for 2014 while we will probably continue with a smaller area of Invicta and grow a field of Horatio for a second season before making a final decision on its future here.


Emails and texts received this week requesting my presence on some rather hard rugby pitches this Saturday will be declined in favour of achieving a first for me – and that is to go to the Last Night of the Proms. Many thanks to Simon, the landlord of the Pheasant, for the tickets.


Former Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year Robert Law farms 1200ha (3000 acres) on the Hertfordshire/Cambridgeshire/Essex borders growing cereals, peas, forage rape for seed and sugar beet. He also manages 500ha (1200 acres) of Nottinghamshire sandland.


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