Range of information keeps him up-to-date
AS a member of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Mr Blackwood draws on a wide range of information to stay abreast of husbandry developments.
"I talk to breeders and other AICC members, go to lots of demonstrations and use plenty of trials data. Managing and monitoring 9000 acres on a consultancy basis for 14 clients also helps." The farm also hosts independent trials – this year on winter linseed herbicides.
Wheat choice at Grange Farm includes Riband, a well-understood and consistent performer, mainly for starch extraction. Reaper, which did well last season, has been expanded. And Soissons, reintroduced as an oilseed rape entry in the absence of barley this year, makes up the balance. Mobile-dressed home-saved seed is used as much as possible.
Hybrid Synergy joins Apex as a non-industrial oilseed rape crop for the first time this season. Winter peas, all Froidure on a canning contract, have successfully replaced spring sown varieties (Arable, Oct 25, 1996). But spring beans, which seem more consistent provided they are sown early, have ousted winter types.
With chicken manure used widely, soil nutrient levels are generally good. "But we have had some SOYL mapping done, which found a tremendous range within fields." Corrective policy is, as yet, undecided.
Sulphur has long been considered an essential addition to nitrogen top-dressings for wheat and rape, all of which go on as liquid. Solid fertiliser application is too inaccurate over 24m tramlines on the undulating ground, he explains.
Apart from volunteers – barley in wheat and especially rape in the beans – weeds at Grange Farm are quite well contained.
Mid-October sown peas, and those put in a fortnight later (inset), are withstanding the cold better than the human hand this month.