It feels like we should have started on some field work by now, but we haven’t, perhaps because the winter started so early. We will shortly be looking to drill our spring beans and barley and soon after that we will begin top dressing the crops.
We usually start with variable P and K dressings, each one being dealt with on a bi-annual basis, but this year we have chosen to apply TSP fertiliser. Using the SOYL system to apply nutrients where they are needed has helped to even up the yields on some very variable soils. Even though the average index is 2 whether sampled in the traditional W pattern or on a grid basis, the SOYL system shows variations between 1 and 3 across many fields.
We are members of the Chiltern Arable Group, which recently held its annual meeting to discuss the results of members’ gross margins. Father-and-son agronomists Andrew and Luke Cotton slaved over our submitted data to produce an excellent set of figures, which formed the basis of a useful discussion. It was clear this year that the two of us, located on the lightest soils in the rain shadow of the Chilterns, were hit particularly hard by the spring drought. No matter what agronomy you use, you can’t keep a crop going on gravel when water runs out.
I recently heard that a certain miller is asking its growers to consider ways of measuring and recording its carbon footprint. I assume due to pressure from its supermarket customers. Growers should be producing as much as possible using the least amount of inputs, while looking after the natural environment. Surely that gives a low footprint as well as a profitable business. Do we really want yet another farm inspection to check the size of our carbon footprints?
Farmer Focus Arable: Simon Beddows