Autumn drilling has gone surprisingly smoothly this season, and emerging cereals have outpaced grazing by slugs and rooks.
All the farm team have worked exceptionally hard and can be proud of how the crops look. We have planted a mix of seven wheat varieties this year, primarily fronted by Leeds, Graham, Crusoe and Siskin and all winter barley crops are feed varieties.
The last harvest of the year – the forage maize – was a great success and clamps are reassuringly full.
Oilseed rape was first grown on our farm in 1987, so this season will be the 30-year anniversary for this crop. Back in that first year, one senior member on the farm team asked why we had started growing cabbages.
Currently, we have started spraying the oilseed rape with a neonicotinoid-based aphicide spray combined with a phoma-controlling fungicide.
It seems mad that this class of insecticide can still legitimately be used as a foliar spray when the “underground” seed treatment equivalent remains banned.
The recent fall in the value of the pound has boosted crop prices, and rapeseed in particular seems to be rallying particularly well.
Sadly, with the future of dessication hanging in the balance, this may be the last year we grow this valuable break crop.
If this happens I will particularly miss oil bonus payments; it’s about time UK millers adopt a similar bonus structure for milling wheat protein to cover the high costs involved in achieving surplus specification.
Unfortunately, the whole food chain is under pressure as the recent battle between Tesco and Unilever demonstrates.
Ultimately, the retailer calls the shots and will resist passing on currency-related costs on to the customer.
Our most successful new kit this autumn has been the Horsh Joker RT 5m disc cultivator. It leaves a firm, smooth stale seed-bed and has, as a consequence, vastly improved our cultural slug and weed control and allowed a faster drilling speed.
Talking of new technology, I also recently purchased an electric chainsaw with a rechargeable battery. This performs well and I don’t miss the two-stroke fumes and 90dB noise levels of its predecessor.
I now have no excuse for not stocking up on firewood for the winter.
David Butler farms just south of Marlborough in Wiltshire in partnership with his parents. He also runs a contracting company and farms about 870ha of combinable crops alongside a herd of 280 dairy cows.