Farmer Focus: Low weed burden allows savings on weeding

We finished sowing our remaining 250ha of spring barley by the end of March and like our earlier February drilling, seed-beds have been excellent and the last fields sown are now emerging.

Generally we like to mix our varieties up to try and spread the risk of disease, but this year we are wall-to-wall Westminster. Over the years it is yielded well for us and often hits its malting spec, meaning a potential £50/t increase in price over feed.

Spring oats are divided between Firth and Elyann, mainly because those varieties are preferred by the millers for hullability and kernel content.

See also: Mechanical weeders: What are the options?

Our second System Cameleon seeder cross inter-row hoe arrived from Gothia Redskap in the middle of March, which should mean sowing and weeding should be even more timely for us and our contract farms, giving us the ability to hoe and sow in excess of 100ha a day.

Over the past week we have been concentrating on hoeing our winter beans, which can be a very weedy crop for us.

I’ve had a good walk over our winter-sown spelt, oats and wheat. I feel that the weed burden is too low to warrant hoeing and so savings can be made on those crops.

Dry conditions

Due to the mild winter, there is a little disease in the bottom of the autumn crops, but due to the current dry weather all the leaves that matter are looking pleasingly clean.

Lambing started with vengeance on 8 April and we are currently seeing 100+ lambs born a day.

This year is a stark contrast to 2018, where early April was a washout, making lambing, tagging and castrating tough work for our shepherd Robert Spink, but also difficult for our New Zealand Romney ewes, who are all lambed outside.

Although the weather has been glorious and a pleasure to be outside in, we have only had 4.5mm of rain in the past month.

It’s a rare sight to see Hanslope clay cracking in April, but on the back of a very dry winter some April showers would be extremely welcome!


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.