Farmer Focus: ‘Average’ rainfall hides the dry truth

When I last wrote, the crops looked reasonable, but an incredible spell of hot and very dry weather is taking its toll and yield potential is fast disappearing. The past six months certainly highlight the danger of looking at averages. 

The rainfall to the end of June is just that – average – but this hides the fact that a large part of it fell in March and that since mid-April it has rained on only five occasions.

As a result, winter crops started to burn off back in May on lighter areas. And spring barley, which looked good at the T1 timing, rushed to ear emergence very quickly, with only one or two tillers per plant. 

See also: Harvest 2018 kicks off but drought spells bad news for yields

Yield of both grain and straw will be low and it is likely that screenings will be high. On the plus side, it has been easy to keep up with spraying, and fungicide rates have been reduced as a result of the low disease pressure. 

Extreme conditions

I have applied amino acids to much of the spring barley, along with magnesium to try to reduce drought stress, but I fear conditions may be too extreme to make a significant difference.

With holidays coming up and harvest looking earlier every day, I think there will be a bit of a rush to get going when I return. 

I intend to apply pod sealant on oilseed rape at the green pod stage on some of the crop this year, as I think in the current conditions this will be better than mixing with the glyphosate. 

I just hope we get a bit of rain before we need to start drilling oilseed rape.

On the livestock side, the cattle appear to be enjoying lying around in the sun, but grass growth is minimal, so we have started to creep feed a month early and will be putting out silage bales soon, which will be an extra cost and more work during harvest.