North: The joys of farming

The joy of farming! We frantically consult breeder’s notes, recommended lists and the chicken bones to find the latest safe sowing date for the 18 tonnes of wheat seed sat in the barn! To cap it all, it still rains and drilling looks like a distant dream. The big surprise is that some crops look good and have enjoyed their covering of snow.

Winter barley has suffered in the water logged areas, but if it was on drier land it looks well. The first signs of manganese deficiency are starting to show and sprays will be applied as soon as the weather allows.

The more difficult decision is do you include the autumn herbicide? Needless to say not one size fits all. In crops where few weeds have germinated and known problem weeds exist, then the inclusion of a herbicide can be justified, even at this stage. Those waterlogged, checked and weed infested areas need re-visiting to schedule the best approach. Top dressing will start later this month and will include sulphur.

Winter wheat is at every stage under the sun from “abandon hope all who sail in her” to respectable. Needless to say this brings every management issue under the sun. I believe the minimum population required is 30 plants/sq m which is dependent on many factors, not least what the alternatives are.

As you will be aware I am quick to seize on targets or goals as guide points for production. In this particular instant I see 5t/ha as a key component. The question is – Can the crop reach that? Or could a re-drilled option beat that? Like me it’s simple, but it does focus the mind. Early nitrogen will be very important to all the wheat’s but like the winter barley little and often will be the best early season tactic.

It may come as a surprise, but the rape that established looks quite good. I admit not brilliant, but compared to the other crops it is not too bad. Weed control by the pre-emergence products has been good, and where they have been missed or not put on it leaves a real challenge for the limited spring treatments.

In terms of phoma the boat has sailed and February fungicides should be targeting light leaf spot. Despite my enthusiasm for the rape crops, growth regulation is not required and fungicides chosen will be those without growth regulatory action. The first dressings of ammonium sulphate will be applied at the first opportunity.

Spring drilling has not started yet, but I can feel the pressure building to release diesel and steel upon unsuspecting ground. I appreciate that early drilled spring cereals on the whole yield the most; however, cold, wet and forced seed-beds are not the way forward. The best description I heard of farming patience was “I am a very patient man when it comes to drilling in the right conditions….until my neighbour gets his drill out!”

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