Farmer Focus: Plant pants to measure soil health

When I wrote my last article, I did not foresee another general election and certainly did not expect that it would remain dry, allowing us to drill all 630ha of barley in 17 consecutive days. 

The good conditions helped both staff and equipment and could not have been more different to 2016.

While the barley has gotten off to a great start, without some decent rain in the next week or so it could start to suffer. The wheat is already showing signs of stress because of the dry conditions.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

While cultivating, I took a call from our AHDB knowledge exchange manager, asking if we would host a visit of our benchmarking group. The theme will be soil health and the visit will compare our lighter soil with heavy clay on another farm to be visited on the same day. 

I wondered if the noise of the tractor was affecting my hearing when I heard him say he was going to drop off some cotton underwear. He assured me it would be left in a discrete package in the workshop. 

He clarified that it was to be buried in the soil and the level of degradation when dug up would provide an indication of soil microbial activity and general health. 

I suspect that if it doesn’t rain, with a quick wash he will be able to put them back into service!

Form-filling and calving progressing well

With drilling out of the way I have started the task of completing the BPS claims for the farms I manage. 

The computer seems to be accepting data input quite efficiently this year. I just hope we can stick to the 15 May deadline and that this might allow payments to be made equally effectively.

The bulls have now been in for three weeks and have had a busy time.  By turnout, usually in mid-May, hopefully most cows will be in calf. 

We have been working hard to tighten our calving period and have had many more calves born early for the past two years, so we are planning to take the bulls out sooner this season, aiming for calving to finish in March next year.


Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Farmcare’s 1,610ha business in Aberdeenshire, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across four contract farming agreements to the south of Inverurie. The farm has 130 beef cows on land less suitable for crop production.

Online grain trading made easy with Farmers Weekly Graindex

It takes just a couple of minutes to create a listing on Farmers Weekly Graindex and you’ll get a range of prices to compare from active buyers who want your grain.
Visit Farmers Weekly Graindex