Farmer Focus: First crop drilled on new farm tenancy

Land work has finally started on the new farm I’m taking on at Cambridge – it’s a strange feeling setting up a machine and assessing the job it’s doing knowing that, unlike before, there is no-one else to ask for the final opinion about how it looks, and should I carry on.

I’m fortunate that the outgoing tenants have been – and are – very helpful and on many occasions have told me stories of past experiences – good and bad, relating to work carried out on the farm, the soil type and its characteristics after certain cultivations, for example.

Every time I’m told something I’ve been making notes – you can’t beat the first-hand knowledge and advice they are giving me, and while in some instances I’ll need to make the mistake to ensure I don’t do it again, I hope many mistakes can be avoided by remembering these stories.

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With the harvest traffic and wet weather, there is definitely a need to move more ground than I would like – both from a time and cost point of view – so it’s certainly not going to be a case of going straight in and direct drilling with the [John Deere] 750A this year.

In the long run I hope to move towards being able to, but initially fields need harvest compaction addressing, some need levelling or tramlines moving, so for now, some cultivations are required.

At the time of writing, fields have only been clear for 24 hours, so no oilseed rape has been planted yet. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this it has.

My cut-off drilling date is 7 September – hopefully the main flea beetle pressure has passed as it emerges, there’s still moisture and the next few weeks are favourable growing conditions.

It’s a gamble, but the farm has not had OSR in the rotation for a few years, and there’s a need to have a decent proportion of the farm in a break crop this year after being nearly continuous cereals recently, so I’ve decided the late drilling with some higher seed rates is worth it.

The rest of the farm will be cropped with winter wheat, winter beans and spring barley, the latter focused onto the red zones for blackgrass control, possibly for two years.

Matt Redman operates a farming and agricultural contracting business specialising in crop spraying, Avadex application and direct drilling in Bedfordshire. He also grows cereals on a small area of tenancy land and was Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year in 2014.