FARMER FOCUS: Wheat and rape lessons from last winter

There`s no better sight than wheat emerging in rows in the autumn sunlight. Seeing the green tinge across the farm where 12 months’ ago ducks were more at home is a huge relief.

Some will drill early this year as a panic reaction to last year. We have always been early drillers, as history has shown that delaying drilling here means crops do not get planted. As soon as land was ready and sprayed off we started with both the Vaderstad and Weaving drills.

I hear too many people saying they can’t plant wheat until the end of October because the blackgrass is too bad. If the blackgrass is that bad, then I think you need to look hard at your rotation and not blindly go on planting winter wheat. Varieties planted this year are Solstice, Santiago, JB Diego and a small area of Relay. All our wheat has received pre-emergence sprays containing either Liberator (diflufenican + flufenacet) or Crystal (flufenacet + pendimethalin) in mixes and some areas are now ready for follow-up applications.

Most of the oilseed rape is very forward, but with little sign of disease, and a proportion of the crop will imminently receive a growth regulator. The pigeons will have to find somewhere else to land, but I suspect they will try to sneak in off the field margins for a nibble. Finding used cartridges this year may be a problem, unlike last year when a cartridge would hide any surviving rape plants.

There are lots of lessons that can be learnt from difficult seasons and we must use these to our advantage in the future. I think key for us is that we should have taken out more of the poorer winter wheat and rape crops in the spring. These patchy part fields have given us poor yields and also left us with soil structure problems that won’t be solved in one year.

Where spring crops were established well, moisture has been sucked out of the soil and cultivations have done a good job. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Jon Parker manages 1,500ha, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, on a medium to heavy land, for Ragley Home Farms, predominantly arable growing wheat, oilseed rape, and salad onions. There is also a beef fattening unit and sheep flock

More on this topic

Read more from Jon Parker

Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

See more