August 26, 2015
Ending the season on a high note – Sam Patchett Blog
The slings and arrows of uncertain politics, prices and precipitation mean we have plenty enough arable challenges to face as another cropping year approaches at the gallop. Even so, I couldn’t have hoped for a better note on which to end the current season.
After all, for a Yorkshireman it doesn’t get much sweeter than putting Australian cricket firmly in its place; my only regret being forfeiting a first day seat at Trent Bridge for the chance of combining and having to follow the Ashes-winning morning in texts from my mother and sister at the ground !
As we move into the second half of August we still have most of our wheat to bring in. However, this year’s harvest promises to be every bit as satisfying as the cricket.
I’ve had more people averaging 10t/ha from their winter barleys than ever before – even on the mixed farms where stock have to take priority. And specific weights are well into the mid- and high 60s – even among six rows.
Plenty of radiation, enough moisture and timely agronomy have paid dividends with our winter OSR too. Despite the highest-ever early season light leaf spot forecast, most crops are nicely up on the long-term average at 4t/ha or so when grown every 3-4 years and pushing 5t/ha in 6-8 year rotations. One field of very difficult ground previously in grass before a wheat crop last year, for instance, gave us 4.9t/ha from September-sowing into in a far from perfect seedbed – a hybrid, of course.
It definitely hasn’t been a low Septoria season; mainly due to high levels of the carryover from last year. Robust early treatment and one SDHI, if not two, in our wheat programmes have paid dividends in green leaf retention, though. This and good summer moisture levels means the harvest is again on the late side. But with crops a long time in the ear and not assailed by any prolonged heatwave, early yields and quality are looking every bit as good as the barley.
We’re also seeing some phenomenal spring cereal yields. Nor are the relatively large acreages of beans we have in the ground this season looking bad, although it will be into September before they’re fit to harvest.
So, all-in-all, it’s shaping up to be a good cropping year. This is just as well, with wheat and barley prices languishing at barely half the level they were little more than two years ago and most other arable markets none too clever either.
Thankfully, this autumn also seems full of promise for the new cropping season, with good soil moisture levels for stubble weed control and crop establishment – providing they’re not lost by inappropriate cultivation, that is.
Winter OSR continues to be our preferred cereal break, mainly because the alternatives really don’t stack-up economically or organisationally in most cases. Having said that, we certainly don’t want to be growing it more frequently than every 4-5 years for the future and we’ll be using fast-developing hybrids for any September sowings after wheat.
Septoria will remain our Number One wheat management priority, with variety selection and matching varieties to drilling slots critical. We’ll also be making the best use of today’s very high yielding bread wheats to extend our marketing options without having to spend much more to do so. Equally, I’m sure we’ll be re-discovering the finer points of spring cropping in a major way.
In any event, I can only hope our farm teams have as much success in meeting the challenges we face every much as effectively as Alastair Cook and his side have done this summer.
You can email Sam your comments and opinions via firstname.lastname@example.org.