Farmer Focus: Maize area rises as spring plans abandoned

I am getting bored of starting these articles with weather woes, but here we go again.

The six months of autumn and winter have now given us 772mm against a rising annual rainfall of 968mm. The rolling 12 month is 1,240 mm, so it’s no wonder the farm looks abysmal.

See also: How two farmers are cutting back on fungicides this spring

About the author

Robin Aird
Arable Farmer Focus writer Robin Aird manages 1500 ha on the North Wiltshire and Gloucestershire border with a further 160ha on a contract farming agreement.  Soils vary from gravel to clay, with the majority silty clay loams. A diverse estate with residential, commercial and events enterprises. He is Basis qualified and advises on other farming businesses.
Read more articles by Robin Aird

We finally had a couple of breaks in the weather, and we managed to get two applications onto the wheat and rye a few weeks apart.

The wheat has had 120kg N/ha and that will be it for the poor areas. The better wheats will have a further 80kg N/ha to top up soon with a splash of urease inhibitor to keep us legal.

It is not really the weather for volatilisation, but we must tick the box.

The rye has had all its nitrogen except one block, which we were hoping to put digestate on. We tried earlier this week but the ground was too wet, so this will need liquid as its heading into stem extension at pace.

The fodder rape has been eaten by the sheep, and we have followed up behind with glyphosate to take out any volunteer regrowth. When we get a chance, we will drill this all with spring wheat.

Looking at the forecast, that will not be until the middle of April, which is getting late

It is, however, a low input cereal so there is more of an incentive to get it in the ground. The growing programme will be pulled back further to allow for the lower yields from late drilling.

Harvey has settled in well and has been learning to operate the Horsch sprayer with nitrogen applications and spraying as he is the relief sprayer operator.

It has been a steep learning curve in difficult conditions, and using the independent breaks to turn is not in the standard manual. It’s also good to see it out in the dark with all the lights on.

I think our maize area may be on the increase as I am sure that a few fields will not make it into spring wheat because the water table is still above the ground.

The seed is in the shed for the planned area, which is always comforting.

The latest update on the changes to the Sustainable Farming Incentive has come as a shock, I was a bit disappointed in the change, but at least we are already in the scheme and still under the threshold, but it does make planning for the future harder if the goal posts do get moved.

I really do hope that when I draft my next article the weather has improved significantly. This financial year that’s just starting is not going to be pretty, and cost control will be really important.

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