Winter wheat going in after beet in sticky conditions with the latest workshop modification. January 21 update below.
Griffin’s January 2021 Report.
Happy new year to everyone and I hope that everyone is keeping safe and well. We have been faced with another season of challenges through the Autumn and this half of Winter so far. With the seasons changing and the weather becoming more in the extremes it is become more and more difficult to plan to far ahead of ourselves. The early part of the Autumn went as planned with all the early drilling plans being done and sprayed in good time and establishment being very good to. Once the rain came in on 23rd of September, it became increasingly harder to find drilling days in order to finish all the planned (not after beet) drilling and with heavier land areas of the farm not receiving the sun and wind needed to dry the surface, we were unable to get back with the drill meaning some areas have remained undrilled. Weed control has been good with moisture being around to help with residual activity, blackgrass numbers have been minimised.
The beet season again this year started wet and has remained a challenge throughout with less than expected drilling done behind the harvester it has added to the already larger than planned spring drilling campaign. This however won’t be a problem with varying soil types across the area and the ability to drill in excess of 100ha a day we will be able to get on well in the spring. With only 70ha of beet left to lift for this campaign we are in a much stronger position than we were this time last year so lets just hope the weather holds out for a few weeks to make this easier.
We had news from British Sugar and NFU Sugar at the end of last year that they have applied for emergency derogation for the use of neonicotinoid seed treatment for the control of aphids in the beet. This has still not been granted however British Sugar still remain optimistic on achieving the one year licence and having enough time to apply it to the seed before drilling, so lets keep our fingers crossed for that to.
Preparations are being made to make a start with the spring work with the granular fertiliser and liquid fertiliser, all the deliveries of granules have now arrived and the liquid is in the process of being delivered. Spring seed requirements are being finalised for dressing as we get closer to the winter wheat drilling cut off.
This spring we are trialling growing 5ha Quinoa for Fairking Ltd with the idea of growing some alternative crops going forward. The chance of working with Andrew Fairs at Fairking is a great opportunity as I hope it will turn out to be a good working relationship going forward. They specialise in placing individual buy back contracts with growers in the UK. They cultivate the crops on their own farms and process and condition specialist seeds. The crops they specialise in are, Borage, Camelina, Quinoa and Echium, these are all used within the health food industry in the UK. With not a lot of chemistry available for this crop it is almost grown organically with the use of the tractor hoe as the only form of weed control.
Apart from just strip tilling stubbles ready for beet in the spring we are trying the option of planting a cover crop first then strip tilling through the cover crop as a second operation. We are banking on the cover crop adding the soil stability in the strip tilled rows over the winter.
Some pictures showing a mix of peas/linseed/radish and oats Autumn-17
After a very difficult harvest it almost seems too good to be true that the beet season is starting off so well if a bit hectic. We haven’t started yet but reports of good yields and high sugars are coming in from other people. One of our trucks is full time on the beet at the moment with Jim driving his pants off ! Some pictures below of loading off Chris Clements Maus
Its been an interesting harvest weather wise but for us very good on yields. Overall we have been very pleased with it being quite noticeable that as soil health has improved the crops seem to be more resilient to the usual extremes of weather. I was very worried about some of the second wheats (or wheat following a previous wheat crop) as we had a very dry spring which put the crop under a great deal of pressure but my fears were mainly unfounded as they did exceptional well. We had the odd minor disaster, we always do in farming, but for us we try and push the boundaries of what we do every year and try something new; I will not be direct drilling combining peas again as we have fifty acres of basically nothing after that experiment. The important thing is know why you have failed so at least you don’t do it again ! Winter beans have done very well for us as the season was perfect for them; drought in the spring stressed them into flowering early then summer rainfall filled the pods, in places their yield has been exceptionally good.
The real star of the year has been the haulage boys as we would have been bursting at the seems if we hadn’t had the ability to shift produce off farm in a wet year.
Carre Introw strip tiller has finally arrived; set at our sugar beet spacing it is 6m or 12 row machine. Originally designed or specified to drill two cover crop types at the same time with fertiliser for the sugar beet, recent experience with cover crops in front of beet this year has curtailed our enthusiasm a bit until we know more about what is an extremely complicated subject. The plan is to strip till about 40% of our 2018 beet area with the machine this year with about 10% of that using cover crops. The remaining area will be done more conventionally with min till.
First job will be to help establish our small but important return to Oilseed Rape growing after we dropped the crop in 2016. We are going to try a very limited area strip tilling in the seed while placing DAP underneath in the strip tilled rows. The purchase of a second hand but reasonably intact front mounted hopper has given us the means to do seed/fert plus micro seeds/pellets as we see fit.
We will see ! Long term we remain very committed to strip tillage for the sugar beet as we see it as a way of extending the crop onto our heavier soils and giving us the right ground conditions to lift later. (we may even try some winter beans at 50cm rows)
Finally after quite a few phone calls to Vaderstad and Phillip Wright (thanks !) we finally have a solution of how to add another seed hopper to our Seedhawk. Desperate measures for one of the most frustrating and cold and wet and annoying spring seasons I can remember as we still haven’t been able to direct drill our spring barley area yet and we have some very hungry slugs. Hopefully after Daryn’s efforts in the workshop we have a fix which will let us drill slug pellets with the seed at 1/2 or 1/3rd rate using our old Opico Air8. Next step to get the two Horsch drills sorted out and we are already making a fix for the Sprinter or Aaron & crew are ! Update to follow !