Farmer Focus: OSR drilling – early, late or in between?

The fact that harvest has carried on a week into September is unusual enough for us, but to still be making hay at the same time is a first as far as I can remember.

Mud and worm casts on the crops, which cause problems in the combine, is also a new experience.

About the author

Andy Barr
Andy Barr farms 700ha in a family partnership in Kent. Combinable crops amount to about 400ha and include milling wheat and malting barley in an increasingly varied rotation. He also grazes 800 Romney ewes and 40 Sussex cattle and the farm uses conservation agriculture methods.
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Wishing for a normal year has long gone out of the window and perhaps normal now includes some kind of extreme, at least extreme in terms of our relatively benign climate.

See also: Low-carbon fertilisers put to test in Bedfordshire

In more positive moments, we sigh and say every year being different keeps it interesting, and certainly farming would be less interesting if there was only one way to grow a tonne of wheat.

We are now seeing subtle differences in approach with our new agronomist, despite new and old both being highly regarded and us only moving as the previous person moved.

The old saying that farmers change wives or husbands more often than they change agronomists is happily not true for me as I am now on my sixth advisor, so would probably have lost the whole farm in divorce proceedings if I had followed that statistic.

One point agronomists, agronomy companies, farmers and the farming press seem to differ on widely is the best time now to plant oilseed rape to avoid losses to flea beetle.

I think I have managed to narrow the advice down to either early or late, or somewhere in between, often with handy additions of “do it whenever you can”, and “we’ll only really know this time next year”.

Perhaps more due to the weather than any cunning planning, we will end up with some early August and some mid-September planted crops this year, so we’ll see how that works out.

Anecdotally, in our corner of the world the late-planted crops seemed to fare better this year, but perhaps we still have more flea beetle than other areas?

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