Jim Bullock farms 283ha
(700 acres) in partnership
with his parents and brother
at Mill Farm, Guarlford,
Malvern, Worcs. Two-thirds
is rented or contract farmed,
the rest owned. Cropping is
winter wheat, winter oilseed
rape and winter beans.
I MAKE no apologies for beginning by complaining about the weather. As I write, the grain drill is standing idle for the third consecutive day and still more rain is falling.
Although we have been able to catch up after a late wheat harvest (our combines stood still for 17 days during August), we still have two to three days drilling left. At this time of year, with day length shortening and field conditions deteriorating, that can soon stretch to four or five days.
Every season we try to improve and speed up our crop establishment system. But having tried minimal cultivation, which only seems to work well in dry years, we always return to the plough and power harrow.
We find on our variable land that the system which gives us the most consistent results under all weathers is to plough as early as feasible, roll if it is dry enough and then leave the ploughing to weather for as long as possible. We then make a single shallow pass with a power harrow just in front of the power harrow/drill combination. The extra pass with the power harrow not only firms the seed-bed, which helps maintain an even drilling depth, but also speeds up the drill combination considerably allowing us to establish 12-16ha (30-40 acres) in a nine-hour day.
The oilseed rape will soon need a graminicide to control some quite strong blackgrass, but I hope the crop will be vigorous enough to swamp the broad-leaved weeds. Most of the land was ploughed and the rape drilled into a stale seed-bed sprayed off with glyphosate before drilling, which should help cut the weed burden.
When we come to spray for grass weeds in the cereals this autumn I shall be looking for a product with some contact action. Our standard mixture of IPU/DFF has worked well over the years, but I am concerned that some of the blackgrass plants are increasingly coming up from below the zone where the IPU is active. An added problem could be scorch with the rapid growth we are seeing this autumn.
Jim Bullock finds early ploughing and rolling gives the most consistent cereal establishment on his variable soil types.