Low nitrogen a blessing for Andrew Crewsdon

A lack of sun has hampered the potential of many crops nationwide but it’s had some surprising benefits at Blagdon Estate in Northumberland.

So far Andrew Crewdson, Sentry farm manager near Seaton Burn, had cut 184ha of winter barley, which had yielded 5t/ha.

Bushel weights were pleasing at between 62 and 69kg/hl, but it was the nitrogen content which was a particular surprise. 

“On our malting contract we needed between 1.8 and 2% nitrogen, and most of our barley averaged 1.5-1.6%.”

 Mr Crewdson reckoned that the lack of sun meant the crops hadn’t utilised the nitrogen in the soil, lowering the grain nitrogen contents.

Far from presenting a problem, this created an opportunity for him to get a substantial increase in the price.

In addition to his winter barley, Mr Crewsdon had also cut 80ha of high euricic rapeseed. Yields averaged a pleasing 3.75 t/ha and quality was also good.

However, the wheat did not look quite so promising.

“The Grafton looked fabulous a few months ago, then fusarium hit and it just looks rubbish now.

“Gallant looks stressed and has just shut down and Santiago looks alright,” he said. “Viscount is probably the best of the lot – it’s hardly been affected by fusarium and has always done well here.”

However, the disease levels were not just down to agronomy, he said.

“There’s great variation between Sentry farms nationwide, and it’s got much to do with region, variety and to some extent, agronomy.”

“We used a robust programme as the crops looked good, but we never anticipated this level of disease.”

With some poor looking crops, Mr Crewsdon was now questioning his marketing strategy for the remaining one third he had to sell.

“While there are some good prices, many people will have sold forward at £170/t and won’t be getting the £200/t available now.

“I’ve got a third left to sell but I’m being cautious as I dare not sell it until I know it’s off the field.”

Although he had plenty more to harvest before the wheat began, heavy rain yesterday afternoon (19 August) and overnight meant it was a matter of waiting for dry conditions before combining could continue.

Crop: Rapeseed
Variety: Catana and Cuillen
Area: 80ha
Yield: 3.75t/ha

Crop: Winter Barley
Variety: Cassata and Pearl
Area: 184ha
Yield: 5t/ha

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