Farmer Focus: Testing the waters with 26ha of hemp

We spend our winter here at Valetta shifting break fences for sheep on winter feed crops of kale, swedes and oats.

Currently we have 14 to shift every morning, so it would be fair to say that by late August we are looking forward to taking the leggings and gumboots off and getting the tractors going on spring cultivation and planting.

We have had a kind winter, dry through June and July and a bit wet during August.

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Feed utilisation and growth rates have been very good, and our establishments of autumn crops look very well.

We have started on the first fertiliser dressing for spring with 250kg/ha of NPKS in the ratio 15-10-10-8 going on ryegrass seed crops, and 300kg/ha at 20-10-0-12 being applied to autumn sown feed wheat.

For our ryegrass production it is always a balancing act driving tiller development and health with nitrogen, potassium and sulphur, generating enough feed to see the lambs finished to weight without blowing the crop out, and not being able to control the vegetative growth.

Spring cultivations

We expect to soon be out sub-soiling grazed kale ground ready for cultivating with a ‘short-disc’ packer and rolls combo, ready for planting into milling wheat.

Where possible, all spring ground following winter feed we surface work rather than plough, to keep the nitrogen loading on the surface ready for the spring crop.

Spring barley, peas and hybrid oilseed rape for multiplication are another three weeks or so from planting.

We have a new Clydesdale that has been patiently waiting in the stables for the last month, so I’m eagerly looking forward to getting it into full harness on our 6m subsoiler to see what it can do.

Crop options for the spring look very good, with all fields allocated well ahead of time.

We are even entering a brave new world by signing up to grow 26ha of hemp for seed for planting in October, so it would seem we will be swapping overalls and toe-cap boots for a tie-dyed kaftan and a pair of roman sandals!


David Clark runs a 463ha fully irrigated mixed farm with his wife Jayne at Valetta, on the Canterbury Plains of New Zealand’s South Island. He grows 400ha of cereals, pulses, forage and vegetable seed crops, runs 1,000 Romney breeding ewes and finishes 8,000 lambs annually.