Farmer Focus: A few false starts to spring drilling

Unfortunately, the weather is still the main point of conversation, and it is little consolation to know that further south, the situation is probably worse. 

There have been a few false starts to spring, with a day or two of warmer weather and a drying wind. This has usually been followed by more rain which quickly saturates fields again. 

However, a slightly better few days this month enabled us to make a start to spring barley drilling on 14 April.

See also: Farmer Focus: Planting potatoes by hand in bad conditions

About the author

Robert Drysdale
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Monymusk Estate, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across 1600ha on 4 contract farming agreements to the south of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The farm also has 130 beef cows running on land that is less suitable for crop production with the majority of calves being finished on the farm.
Read more articles by Robert Drysdale

I spent a couple of hours this morning looking for the next field to drill. The best turned out to be still too wet, so with a couple of hundred acres done, the drill was put back in the shed just before the sleet showers arrived.

This time last year we thought we were having a one-off, late season, but this year is a repeat on a wetter scale. 

Hopefully, the promised high pressure coming in for the weekend will help, but we need it to stick around for several weeks to allow work to catch up. 

With one spraying day a fortnight so far this season, the job is falling behind. The winter barley T0 and T1 sprays are now planned to be a combined application. 

We have done some wheat T0, which was mostly focused on nutrition and encouraging tillering rather than disease control. 

Oilseed rape is just starting to flower and looks well, but a cold spell is not what it needs. I think poor weather at the start of flowering last year was the main reason for a disappointing yield come harvest time.

The excess rainfall has shown up deficiencies in field drains, whether this is blockages caused by roots, crushed tiles or just not enough capacity. There has been a lot of work done putting in new drains or replacing sections. 

There is plenty more to do, but it is very satisfying seeing water flow out of the end of a pipe and away down the ditch. 

It is remarkable how past generations planned and installed drain systems, most of them being stone drains, dug in by hand. 

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