Wettest summer in a century still having impact on county’s farms

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The legacy of the wettest summer in 100 years is now showing in the crops I have planted this autumn at Poolham Hall Farm.

Despite my best effort to minimise compaction whilst cultivating in the fields, unfortunately some smearing to the soil has led to water standing in the plough furrow, also restricting the flow down to the drainage systems below.

I remember writing in the Horncastle News only last year that the soils on the farm had never been in better condition. This only goes to show how things can change on a farm with clay soils within 12 months.

Autumn drilling has continued slowly on the best soils and only 50 acres are left to sow with winter wheat to complete the programme before the onset of winter.

This wheat is following sugar beet and I am hoping November will provide a sustained period of drying winds to allow the crop to be lifted in dry conditions.

My choice of wheat varieties drilled on the farm this autumn has changed and Duxford and Oakley have been dropped to be replaced by J.B Diego and Invicta.

Oakley is a variety I have grown for a number of years and has performed well until this season.

The variety is very suspectable to Yellow Rust and requires a preventable approach for the control of the disease to get the best yield from it at Harvest. This can mean an extra pass through the crop with the sprayer, usually when the soil is wet in the early spring.

As the soils are saturated at the moment and are likely to be in the spring the risk of the disease exploding in the crop in March next year has influenced my decision to drop the variety.

The cooler Autumn of 2012 may have slowed up crop growth especially in later sown, Oilseed Rape which is still struggling against a large slug population, on a positive note has meant Blackgrass has also been slower to develop in the crops. This gives us more time to apply the chemicals to kill the weeds as they emerge.

We lifted half of our sugar beet crop at the Heckington Farm in early October. The returns from the factory have been encouraging, sugar levels of 17 per cent are acceptable and have helped to produce an adjusted clean yield of nearly 29 tons an acre.

The new NFU Sugar Beet Frost Insurance Scheme has been introduced for the 2012 crop harvest and is quite correctly charged on every ton of sugar beet processed in British Sugar factories.

It has been introduced because some growers lifting beet in late 2012 lost a large portion of their crops to frost damage.

I do believe that the NFU and British Sugar could have avoided the confusion and misunderstanding of the workings of the policy is a much better way than happened though.

On the livestock side of the business all of the spring born calves have been weaned and their mothers dried off. The grain silage has been analysed and I am waiting for the results.