Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A 'Snap Chat' from the NFU Weather Blog

From: Phil Jarvis, Leics-Northants-Rutland county chair, he talks about managing soil when weather conditions aren’t right:

Not so long ago I rather bravely/foolishly stated that “anyone can direct drill on lighter Loddington View_170_113land”. In my defence, getting no-till right (enough) on our heavy land has been known to cause me a few sleepless nights especially after some of the extreme weather events we’ve had to deal with in recent years.

I know that after a year like 2012, I can’t get the soil right again in one year and I can’t always rely on a great seedbed and good soil structure to get the water out of the fields. Our beans got Fusarium after 5 inches of rain fell in May last year, their roots are sitting in water for too long.
So for us, it’s about hitting the right balance of yields, soil structure, and keeping my soils - my “shop floor” - in my fields. I think I can achieve that balance when conditions aren’t perfect, by not disturbing the topsoil too much but using the equivalent of a low disturbance sward lifter, on arable land,to help the water get away.

2012 also taught me (some) patience. I keep reminding myself that waiting to drill a spring crop after a year like 2012 not only makes sense for the “shop floor” but also for my bank balance as I’m not throwing money at seeds and chemicals that are only going to go backwards or down the drains.
But I’m not giving up. There’s a lot to play for - a more resilient soil with better structure, that’s less trafficked, with higher organic matter levels, a better balance of air and water and more earthworms – but it’s a long road with some unexpected twists and turns.

A long chat with a direct driller on sandy soils helped me see that it isn't as simple as anyone can direct drill on light land" whatever the weather. It's those lucky ones on free-draining loamy soils who have it easy!

More from the Weather Blog Here

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Blackgrass Saga - Series 1 Episode 3.

Now I don't want everyone to think that I am completely besotted with blackgrass, so I would like to state that I do pursue other interests and hobbies.

A conversation this winter, with another farmer, revolved around 'growing a crop' or 'controlling blackgrass'. It was agreed that it was quite difficult to try and do both on the sort of soil types that blackgrass thrives in. A dry September can lead to poor stale seedbed germination, a wet October can then lead to slugs, colder soil temperatures, compaction and difficult drilling conditions.

So on walking across one of our worst blackgrass fields, it was clear we had a sprayer malfunction. (A dodgy solenoid in the blind section behind the sprayer). However, it did highlight how important a 'pre-crop emergence' spray of glyphosate can be. Whilst not all the blackgrass was controlled where we had sprayed, these pictures do rather tell a story about where glyphosate was not applied.

This field was mole ploughed, a stale seedbed formed with a light disc and press (about 5cm in depth) and drilled on the 10th October 2014. It was sprayed with 1.5l/ha of glyphosate 360 on the 25th October.

Blackgrass rules in the tramline

The wheat has a better chance to get away