Farmer Focus: Copper and zinc trial shows no visible benefit

It now feels like spring is properly here, with bright sunshine and warmer temperatures.

It seems like it has been almost spring for weeks now, but regularly we have had a cold snap and as a result the oilseed rape seems to have been trying to come into flower for around six weeks.

It is now finally in full flower and the countryside is looking its best, with vivid yellow and green fields and blue skies.

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One feature that has not changed is the very dry soil and we really need to keep getting regular rain to keep crops growing to their full potential.

I can’t believe that for a second year in a row we are already looking for rain.

I think the farm looks at its best during late May, with fresh green growth and new leaves on the trees.

Hopefully it will not be spoiled again by drought stress burning off all the sandy patches even before ear emergence.

As a result of the dry conditions I have reduced nitrogen inputs to malting barley and have been going earlier with micronutrient applications on all crops.

Tissue sampling has shown that to date we seem to be keeping on top of the plants’ requirement.

I am trialling various combinations of copper and zinc seed treatments in the spring barley this year, in addition to the manganese that we apply as a routine.

As yet there is no visual difference, but I will tissue sample prior to foliar treatment, and ultimately the combine yield monitor will be the judge of any benefit.

Looking ahead

With cattle now outside and drilling complete, I am now starting to plan ahead for the coming season.

With grain prices in retreat, the cost of fertiliser will be a key factor in the returns to be made from the coming seasons’ crops.

As yet there is no indication of new season pricing, but a reduction in price from this season will be needed to make winter barley in particular an attractive crop to grow, although it will retain a place in the rotation on a modest scale to give an early entry to OSR.


Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Farmcare’s 1,610ha business in Aberdeenshire, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across four contract farming agreements to the south of Inverurie. The farm has 130 beef cows on land less suitable for crop production.