Crop management – it’s a challenge

A lot can happen between writing an article and it going to press.

If you’re an arable farmer in or near East Anglia, I hope you’ve had some meaningful rainfall that has ended your crop-related stress.

I also hope that my computer hasn’t killed me by the time you read this. It’s easy to forget why old technology is left languishing at the back of a cupboard: this old girl trips the fuse box when you turn it on, sounds like a two-stroke strimmer and belches a faint whiff of smoke into the room every time you ask her to crank up Microsoft Word.

Away from the health hazard that is my desk, the month has once again been really busy. Coursework seems to be concentrated in this semester more than any other, so the library has once again been graced with my presence for far longer than I would have liked.

The welcome arrival of spring has also seen the first input decisions of the Crop Management Challenge. We’ve been given a plot of winter wheat and it is up to us to decide what pesticides and fertilisers to use; the winner is the team with the best margins, having marketing their grain in a manner of their choosing.

Because it is a competition, fraternising with the opposition is strictly prohibited and what each team is applying seems to be kept shrouded in secrecy. It is made even worse by the fact that my flatmate is in a different team to me and has managed to sell a percentage of her grain forward for a couple of quid more. If she wins, the gloating will never, ever end.

From what information I have gathered though, it seems we’ve all gone for different fungicide and growth regulator strategies. With disease symptoms already present, my team has gone all out with two active ingredients at T0 and some Moddus to try and encourage backward tillers.

Other groups haven’t bothered with anything at this stage while some have gone down the cheap and cheerful route. It’s going to be really interesting to see how what we put on effects our final yield – though, no matter how hard I try, I can’t quite convince the opposition that glyphosate is an extremely effective fungicide and that they should be applying it liberally.

If any reader has a crystal ball, tarot cards or other conjuring devices, then I’d also love to know what the market is going to do before November, please. You can send your answers to me on the back of a postcard, along with next week’s lottery numbers if you’d be so kind. You’re probably more likely to get the latter right.

From one bone-dry field to another: the rugby pitch. The last match of the season took place a couple of weekends ago – the culmination of a very successful few months. Quickly becoming a Sutton Bonington tradition, the annual President’s game puts the current 15 against a team made up of past students and even the occasional lecturer. Thankfully we won, though the point is really to make as much money for charity as possible. Thanks go to the organisers for raising a whopping £1,500.

The Easter break will be used mainly to complete a few assignments, including starting the background research for my final year dissertation project. I’m going to be working on fungicide timings for eyespot in winter wheat, so I’ll have to come back in the summer to do the sampling and lab work.

Back at home, the unseasonably dry weather has given us the opportunity to get everything in the ground much earlier than normal, though when it will actually grow is a different matter.

Of immediate concern however – and if you’ve seen my blog recently you might be aware of it – is the Come, Dine With Me-style competition that seems to be unofficially running between my flatmates.

I’m not sure what has been my personal highlight, though I reckon it was a toss-up between a rabbit joint cooked with quite a large chunk of fur still attached and a dessert made almost exclusively from hard jelly and some very lumpy cottage cheese. Maybe we’re not quite ready for an appearance on the TV show just yet.









Futures markets and commodity risk management online course:

  • Risk management strategies for a more predictable financial performance
  • Educated conversations when collaborating with your advisors
  • Negotiate better prices with your grain merchants

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