Jim Bullock

28 September 2001

Jim Bullock

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

THE contrast between drilling wheat this autumn and last could hardly be greater. Dry, dusty seed-beds are a welcome change to the mud we suffered last year.

Most of the cereals are being drilled into a stale seedbed created with discs and then rolled. Where the soil structure is good and trash is not a problem we will be direct drilling, but this will only be about 15% of the cropped area. We have had to resurrect the plough – Yes, the plough – to turnover some spring bean stubbles. The wet weather during July and August encouraged a massive flush of weeds, mainly knotgrass and fat-hen, which would have been difficult to bury with shallow cultivations and there would not have been time to create an effective stale seed-bed.

I had forgotten what a slow process ploughing is, especially so where soil structure had been damaged by cultivating and drilling last spring under less than favourable conditions. Now I wish I had been bold enough to direct drill all the spring crops; those that were, yielded reasonably well and were all but weed-free.

Our cover-crop plots continue to create interest. Of the plants established the mustard shows the most promise, fenugreek and buckwheat not making sufficient growth to be of use as a cover crop. The mustard broadcast into standing wheat at the beginning of August is in flower and has produced a massive root system. My only concerns are slugs and lack of moisture – the mustard may have drawn every last drop from the soil – useful in a wet year but not so good in a dry autumn.

We are told that last weeks events in the USA will affect all of us. How true. Only 24 hours after the disaster we ordered another load of tractor diesel to be told it had gone up by 3p/litre, a 13% increase or £75/load. Who will pocket the £75 and to whom can I pass on this cost? &#42

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