Biog: Independent agronomist, photographer and software developer. Rural Cambs-based vegan chap who doesn’t hassle others. Martyn’s photography, which can be purchased online, can be found here: www.blackthornarable.co.uk
Harvest 2016 was a mixed bag. By far the worst for us was winter barley; after a good couple of years, yields were well down, but people are more or less sticking with the crop, but I do feel that another bad year could kill it though.
It performs very well for us in the second straw slot on the edge of the Brecks, these light sandy soils, with high organic matter are terrible for take all and winter barley fits well in these situations. I find the hybrids are more robust when we get a dry season and input costs are lower than wheat so it’s a lower risk option.
Potatoes have been variable in yield, black dot is a challenge for the packing sector, but for most it will be a decent year financially, so growers can replace kit where needed, but I raise a word of caution – just watch the rise in crop area, chaps.
Sugar beet is doing well in many fields and we have some excellent yields, a good harvest and fields already drilled with wheat.
Oilseed rape remains a challenge, the area well down on just three years ago and cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) is the deal breaker. Right now the crops sown on our light soils by the third week in August look great; frankly, though, it is not hard to keep crops like these intact.
I’m sensing with farmers a marked change in attitude, with a much more pragmatic approach and good adoption of ICM, although I suspect not many would say that is the reason.
As far as crop decisions are concerned, there is a noticeably greater uptake of varieties with better disease profiles. No longer are crop genetics chosen purely on yield.
Early harvest is now a key criterion for wheat growers and varieties like Graham, with a high score for tritici and early ripening should find favour. Another variety that is very popular this season is KWS Siskin.
The advice to growers to choose improved disease resistance seems to be working. No fields have been sprayed for phoma and DK Exalte in particular is looking stunning.
For those with blackgrass the switch to spring cropping has been marked, but we’ve found that spring beans do not have sufficient good chemistry to mop up surviving blackgrass plants, neither do they compete well allowing blackgrass to romp. Spring bean growers will be switched for winter beans for this reason.
Delaying drilling is also a common feature and where we have now had a long run of using soil amendments such as compost on our heavier soils, they generally allow us a few extra drilling days.