Farmer Focus: Match agronomy to the variety and season

As another season passes and all the crop growing decision-making is complete, all we can do is wait patiently for the crops to mature before we move onto harvesting.
Winter barley will often be ready around 10 July here, so harvest preparation is well under way with grain store hygiene, machinery servicing and the usual pothole/tree branches/field gates to sort out.

Disease levels in crops has remained low all year with inputs being reduced throughout the season. Some timely rain allowed a final nitrogen application to winter oats and spring wheat to help with grain weight and quality.

Orange wheat blossom midge was a worry for a few days. However, yellow sticky traps showed threshold levels were not reached, but cereal leaf beetle in spring barley seems to be more visible than I’ve seen before.

It is frustrating reading articles which undermine my confidence or decision making by encouraging intervention in crop growth by some means, usually with a pesticide. Be it septoria that “might arrive” or fusarium “if it rains” or stress/ear colour…

From what I have seen, some fungicide responses can be hard to justify anyway, especially in a spring that for us, has seen 1.6mm rain in May.

I am always happy to strike a balance with inputs, but matching the agronomy to the variety and season has got to be the starting point. My resistant varieties are another product in the tank I thought?

Cover crops for the 2021 season will be straight phacelia, forage rye and vetch, as well as buckwheat and vetch. This will be the first time I have tried a cereal in a cover crop. But where I’m now following this with a spring pulse, I’m less concerned about the green bridge.

We have begun looking at our new countryside stewardship agreement and what that could look like in 12 months’ time. We need to make best use of available options, so working with Hampshire wildlife trust has been really useful to maximise farm income but equally as important, maximise the intended outcome.


Craig Livingstone manages 1100ha in Hampshire with 215ha forestry, 85ha low input grass ley and CSS and 800ha arable cropping on varied light chalk to heavy clay soil. The farm supports 1,000 sheep in partnership