Farmer Focus: Snow, winds, frost and flea beetle attacks

It’s almost the end of April, but it feels more like early March, with frost most mornings and frequent cold, northerly winds. 

It has, however, remained dry, with the only significant precipitation this month coming as snow, which held up drilling for a few days early in the month. 

We have almost completed the spring barley drilling, with the early-sown crop emerging well, although slower than normal due to cold soils.

See also: Why one Norfolk grower has kept oilseed rape in his rotation 

We do have a field left to drill where, for the first time, I have decided to replace a crop of OSR that is infested with cabbage stem flea beetle larvae. 

The OSR was drilled in the third week of August, towards the end of our drilling period, and established well. However, when growth should have taken off in the spring, it just stuck, and the larvae caused unseen damage from within the stem. 

Unfortunately, we have few break crop options, so will have to look at what we can do to minimise the risk in future. 

From what I can see, bigger plants seem to be able to withstand damage better than smaller ones, so looking at how to achieve this will be one consideration. 

Another could be to limit the OSR area, with cover crops to give an entry to wheat, but with rapeseed at current prices, this is not an attractive option.

With a change of loaders due on the farm before harvest, I have made the decision to change carriage types, so I am replacing several older attachments. 

This still leaves about 10 other items having to undergo a costly trip to the blacksmith to get replacement brackets fitted. It does seem crazy that a standardised system has not been agreed between manufacturers, which would significantly improve efficiency and cut down on needless waste in our industry.

I was pleased to get my first Covid-19 vaccine recently and hope the progress being made in recent months continues. What I am not looking forward to is the inevitable increase in people coming to “enjoy” the countryside, parking inappropriately and leaving their rubbish everywhere.

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