Flindt on Friday: I’m all ears for some wheat answers

You’d think that an earwash fungicide on the wheats would be a simple job – a chance to calmly contemplate the end of another arable campaign (my 30th) on a long June day.

The weather was right (the heat had gone), the sprayer was back to being litre-perfect with a new non-return valve on the inner-right boom, the diaphragm pump had had an overhaul at the same time, and I was exactly on the “three weeks since last dose” date.

About the author

Charlie Flindt
Charlie Flindt is a tenant of the National Trust, farming 380ha in Hampshire with his wife, Hazel. He’s a weekly columnist writing for Farmers Weekly and never fails to raise a few eyebrows and tickle a few funny bones with his hilarious musings about the farming world.
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See also: Wheat varieties to drill in autumn 2021

Yes, there were questions to be answered: should I be using rowcrops instead of the 18.4s?

They’re in the barn, but my shoulders aren’t what they used to be. It’s been a dozen years since I last fought that wheel swap battle – and only narrowly won it.

Does backing into the field corners cause more damage than the good the fungicides do at this late stage?

Just how many roe deer can one little farm support?

Has the managing director of Rotam ever had to open and empty a can of Toledo while under “fast fill” pressure? Would he like to come and have a go?

Zulu revival

I’d been in the early drilled Zulu – at one stage written off and destined for being ploughed in, but now having staged a miraculous recovery, with flag leaves you could land a plane on, covering three-quarters of the original drilled area.  

And en route, I’d driven through the February-sown Zulu, equally lush and with the first ears now appearing.

Finally, I got to my 150 acres of Crusoe, the flagship crop, the one we put more time, effort and money into than any other.

More questions once the boom had click-clacked into position, and I’d set off, double-checking pressures and boom height (carefully – the neck isn’t as flexible as it was 30 harvests ago):

Should I go back to Nufol to try to boost proteins? Hasn’t the soggy brow recovered well? Why is radio reception so bad up this end of the farm?

And then the big one – the really, really big one, and the really, really worrying one: why does my Crusoe appear to be two varieties?

Shades of green

First call: Tod the Cropdoctor (once I’d got to a decent phone reception area). Yup, he’d seen it a week or two ago as ears were emerging, but was keen – like all doctors – to see what developed. (“Doctor, doctor; I’ve swallowed a camera.”)

At that early stage, he’d provisionally put it down to heat/frost/Mars in Uranus/Greta. “Send me some pictures,” he said, sounding even more like a modern GP.

His verdict: definitely two varieties. One a grey-green, several inches taller and still flowering. The other a pure green and shorter – more like Crusoe.

Wheat crop showing ears in two distinctly different colours

© Charlie Flindt

Now, Two-tone Crusoe may be the best name ever for a ska/sea shanty covers band, but its agricultural implications are slightly less cheery.

The first thing we need to know is exactly what the rogue variety is (assuming that the other is indeed Crusoe).

If it’s another pure miller, then that’s less of an issue – as long as it ripens simultaneously and doesn’t wreck Hagbergs. If it’s a bog-standard feed – well, that will render the year’s work useless.

More calls were made, emails were sent, and the whole issue is under investigation. Nothing to be done for now.

Mind you, the questions didn’t get any less: how will they tell? DNA? By eye? Will the supplier agree? Will I need my new TFA legal assistance? At the next band rehearsal, shall we try doing some Quo as a ska sea shanty?

And all I wanted to do was a fungicide earwash.