Farmer Focus: Beans have done well on chalk soils

Harvest continued at a pace for us and cereals were completed by 11 August. We are pleased overall with yields and qualities, but it’s certainly a year for chalk soils.

Spring barley (as ever) on this farm is difficult to gain consistency of final grain N with such varying soils. Inorganic nitrogen has been reduced by 20% over the past four years, down to 110kg/ha, and we will reduce it even further this coming year. The barley seed crop did well and all samples passed.

See also: How to maximise wheat crop competition to beat blackgrass

We have started cutting beans, which are lower yielding, but that’s not surprising. On chalk where they had moisture and early emergence they have done well, but those on heavier soils which emerged three weeks later are short and thin.

Cover crops are all planted and most were direct drilled with the Vaderstad Rapid – the new disc alignment is game changing for us and has done a great job. Plenty of soil moisture and warm weather has seen good strong growth.

Shallow cultivations with either the Carrier L or Topdown have been completed and there is a good flush of volunteers.

More seed is being home saved again this year and lab results show there is no need to use a fungicidal single-purpose seed dressing. If we can achieve this in areas around the rotation, then it can only be a positive for soil fungi activity.

However, this is a considered risk and not an all-or-nothing approach, but we will continue to learn as we go.

It was great to read part one of the national food strategy. This focused mainly on the response to Covid and such a shock to our food system.

It referenced how farming had responded well to many past challenges and framed the challenge we face going forward. I look forward to beginning work on part 2 of the strategy.

Finally, we were really pleased that Alastair (our sprayer operator) and wife Amy welcomed baby Jacob in early August. Another keen young farmer, we hope!