What ‘warming’ asks Richard Cobbald

Richard Cobbald is farm manager for Wrest Wratting Park Estate near Cambridge. The 1300ha (3200 acres) of heavy clay to light sandy soils grow wheat, oilseed rape, sugar beet and spring barley

Since last putting pen to paper, it would seem our climate has grown colder rather than following the popular concept of “warming”.

With snow at Easter, hardly a week without frost and a very wet March my early drilled sugar beet is doing everything it can to survive, but gradually failing.

There will have to be some redrilling in a frost pocket, and I think the chance of equalling our 71t/ha from the 2007 crop is already extremely doubtful.

Our T0 spray plans have had to be altered because second wheats were so slow getting to growth stage 30 that we decided to go for full-rate PGR at GS 31 rather than split.

But some things seem to love these conditions the dreaded flying rats commonly known as pigeons.

Our rape is still getting hit and in most fields we have plants ranging from waist high to just above the ankle.

With the added partridge burden through the winter, beans are becoming an option again, especially when you also consider nitrogen prices.

On the subject of fertiliser, I have recently been negotiating with SOYL over having the farm nutrient and combine yield mapped.

When we first started discussing this, phosphate was rising to over £400/t. Back then I was still mulling over the whole idea, but the continued price increase of compound fertiliser made the decision easy. So from harvest 2008 we shall yield map and use variable rate spreading even more hi-tech equipment to confuse me.

Thankfully, Monte and Chris seem to adapt to all the advances that I throw at them.

Seeing as I have pen in hand and writing muscles suitably stretched, I should get on with my SPS forms. Given the amount of paper involved, I do hope that if reincarnation does happen I don’t return as a tree.

Farmer Focus: Richard Cobbald

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