Farmer Focus: Positive signs from new establishment system

Too wet, too dry, too hot and now too cold – that’s all I can say about the frustrating weather.

Spring drilling went well. Our Amazone Citan drill was perfect for this situation, just putting seed in with the minimal amount of disturbance. Hopefully this will result in less blackgrass germinating, but only time and an inch of rain will tell.

Our September seed-bed trials set up for spring barley were as we expected. The plots that were ploughed and pressed established well, although the Quadtrac and drill cut in about 100mm.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

Min-tilled plots travelled really well and showed good establishment, but in those that were min-tilled and rolled, the soil has slumped a little.

Although we had the best blackgrass emergence from this, the spring barley emergence is worst here – again, good rain is required.

On the whole, the farm looks well other than the odd slug-damaged patch and even those are filling in. The new system looks to be working well.

I’m glad we took the risk of selling all the kit and re-equipping. Our costs have never been lower and our anti-blackgrass strategy seems to be working, even if there were some sleepless nights leading up to the sale.

New pup on patrol

Like many of you, shooting is a passion of mine and working a gundog is for me probably equally as exciting as shooting a high bird.

Back in February we took delivery of Barley, an eight-week-old fox red Labrador bitch, which I have to say is an absolute delight.

Having had a number of black labs, this is my first red one, and the first noticeable thing is she’s by far the most intelligent puppy we’ve ever had. Opening cupboards and feeding herself is child’s play.

Her latest hobby is too go out into the garden at dusk and watch ducks flighting into my neighbour’s pond. She sits by rabbit holes in the paddock, hoping for a chase, and now she’s even learned how to steal carrots from the horses.

I bet she is using them to bait the rabbits. I can see dog training is going to be fun!


Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Farming Company. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.

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