Farmer Focus: I’ve ordered a direct drill before Groundswell

The window has now shut for hoeing our combinable crops.

We managed to get all the spring crops done, but due to the wet March (apart from most of our winter wheat/bean bi-crop), winter cereals slipped through the net and so I am enjoying the sight of flowering blackgrass waving at me in the wind in our uncompetitive modern wheat blends.

The taller spelt has managed to keep most of it under its canopy and our heritage wheat blends that are, at present, shoulder height have it completely smothered. 

See also: How OSR variety choice helps crops survive flea beetle

About the author

John Pawsey
Arable Farmer Focus writer John Pawsey is an organic farmer at Shimpling Park in Suffolk. He started converting the 650ha of arable cropping in 1999, and also contract farms an additional 915ha organically, growing wheat, barley, oats, beans and spelt.
Read more articles by John Pawsey

We’ve also got a new weeding toy, a Combcut made by the clever Swedes at Lyckegård.

You need search Google to see how it works, but essentially it’s a system of razor-sharp static knives that allow the top leaves of your cereal crop to pass through, but not fleshy weeds like charlock, thistles or docks.

I bought it mainly for working in spring crops where we are starting to see more of those particular weeds. Not a complete solution, but another tool to stop any one weed from dominating in our herbicide-free system.

Although the farm is looking a little parched due to lack of rain, because of the aforementioned wet March, our clay soils have managed to hold onto enough moisture to send our fertility leys skyward.

With lambing now finished, they are proving plenty of food to fatten the lambs and keep the ewes in good condition.

In some cases we have run a mower over some more enthusiastic clover, but mainly to deal with weeds and to tidy things up a bit.

With harvest only a couple of months away I have been thinking about this year’s winter cover crops, juggling feeding our soils versus feeding our sheep. Hopefully, a successful compromise will be struck.

Finally, with Groundswell just around the corner I have ordered a direct drill. Not only am I talking the talk, I’m walking the walk and have the T-shirt to prove it. Boom.

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