Farmer Focus: Critical period for spring barley

We started spring planting on 17 March on light chalk land and then steadily played hopscotch around the farm, completing spring drilling on 30 March.

We had to be disciplined on not forcing crops this spring as heavy land really did need to dry.

The north-easterly winds were a blessing and enabled land to dry well, although following high volumes of rain and sheep grazing, some land had capped quickly.

Efforts changed to conserving moisture in the topsoil, with the rolls following as close behind the drill as possible.

See also: How to manage fallow land hit by wet winter weather

Spring barley management will be key over the next 14 days – with such large predictions in 2020 crop plantings, I imagine quality will need to be perfect for the end user.

We are four weeks later planting than last year and now with less moisture to activate seed-bed N, I will reduce nitrogen by 30-40kg/ha. 

Spring beans have gone in well and a pre-emergence was applied. Drier conditions won’t help the performance of chemistry, and with so few crop herbicide options, we will keep our fingers crossed.

We have introduced biodiversity strips into the crop this year which we will include as a Countryside Stewardship scheme option next year when we renew, with a 6m strip every 120m to be rolled out on any field larger than 30ha.

Our ambition is to use no insecticide in spring crops and eventually omit altogether. The Assist project has some great information on this, so I hope we see some positive results.

Grain marketing has seen some real spikes over the past 14-21 days. However, I’m nervous to commit too far in advance.

With some old crop still to market and a cautious tonnage sold forward, I won’t do anything else yet regardless how big the dangled carrot.

I have updated the 2020 BPS claim form. With a few very wet areas being entered as fallow, I need to get the measuring wheel out and triple check everything before submitting.

We are well into lambing now which is going well. We were sad that due to coronavirus restrictions, we were unable to have the regular lambing crew to help, but we look forward to welcoming them back next year.