Farmer Focus: Direct drilling into a ryegrass and red clover ley

It feels like the first decent autumn we’ve had in a few years, with a mixture of showers and sunshine enabling us to get the cover crops and grass seeds in and away.

Slugs seem to be enjoying some of our cover crop species, especially the vetch, but there appears to be enough there for a viable winter cover and to keep our sheep grazers Tom and Liz happy.

Covers certainly seem to be better behind the wheat, which is down to either residual nitrogen or residual soil friability and structure from the linseed.

See also: Video: Hands-Free Farm turns to drilling after good harvest

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Richard Harris
Richard Harris manages his family farm in partnership with his father in south Devon. Growing wheat, barley, linseed, grass and cover crops, with a small pick-your-own pumpkin patch.
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Patience looks to have paid off for the desired mid-October drilling slot. Although it was tempting to drill towards the end of September, we – like most others – held off and waited, primarily due to the BYDV risk, which is high in our coastal area.

The wheat was destined for ex-spring linseed and ryegrass/red clover ground, so we were confident ground conditions would hold, as soil structure and water filtration are very good after those crops.

Direct drilling into our ryegrass/red clover ley is a first for us, with the previous attempt scuppered by the very wet autumn of 2019.

Soil conditions were somewhat baked in mid-September, but early October’s rain softened things up nicely and the drill pulled through cleanly, although a little slotty in places.

Because of the slots, the field was double rolled crossways, which seemed to do the trick. Now we live in hope that the glyphosate kills the ryegrass, leaving us with rows of wheat.

With the cover crops, grass seeds and wheat in the ground, my attention has turned to our off-farm diversification, a pick-your-own-pumpkin patch which my girlfriend and I have launched.

This is the first year for us and after many trials and tribulations, predominantly based around weeds and sunlight, we have got viable pumpkins to sell.

Many thanks to various American websites for their growing tips, along with the pigeons, rabbits and slugs for leaving us alone for the growing season.

We look forward to an exciting few weekends leading up to Halloween.

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