Farmer Focus: Hair and grass both NOT growing so well

“Hair and grass both still growing well” was the headline of a recent livestock Farmer Focus piece. Well, if I’m honest, both are a bit patchy here.

The grass regularly disappears before being temporarily revived by a thunderstorm and, while the hair is extending around the edges, the middle of the paddock is still a bit thin.

Still, I could always get a job as a Bill Bailey lookalike before I manage to get a spot at the barbers. On the plus side, the year does seem to have been particularly good for oxeye daisies, all kinds of both helpful and not so helpful insects and, amazingly, some peas we have on sand.

The spring beans, on the other hand, are worryingly short and in our Syngenta conservation agriculture trial plots, the ploughed strip looks better than the direct drilled one.

See also: Farmer Focus: Making hay while arable crop prospects wilt

On the other hand, in both the winter wheat plots you can’t tell any difference between the ploughed, direct drilled or min-tilled areas, but the proof will be in the fast-approaching harvest.

These trials are proving very useful to me, especially with declining subsidies and an aim of carbon neutrality. I shall be trying to tweak the direct bean establishment rather than reverting to ploughing.

Throwing another bend into this twisting year, the coronavirus situation has delayed the Forestry Commission’s plan to plant up 130ha of land I am renting, so we will farm it for another year.

With blackgrass not such a concern, I am looking at the newly emerging barley yellow dwarf virus-resistant or tolerant varieties to facilitate some early drilling, compared with the new normal of October at least.

The KWS Amistar barley I have this year looks decent without having the all-consuming thickness of the hybrids I have been growing, so I plan to keep the seed rate up this autumn.

Wolverine wheat looks pretty clean in local trials, so we’ll also try that, if seed availability allows.