Dry autumn leaves crops behind


Biog: Tom is a second-generation arable farmer from near Maidstone in Kent, farming 1000 acres and cropping milling wheat, OSR and spring beans with some grass grown for hay and haylage. He is an AHDB Nuffield Scholar; on his travels he studied No-Till systems. He married to Sarah and has 4 young children. As well as my farming interests, he is on the leadership team of The Vine Church in Maidstone and involved in their local village with the school PTA. 

Title: Dry autumn leaves crops behind

The ground is crazy dry like it might be in August. And there is still no rain forecast for the next week. As the days shorten, and with no moisture, it’s a worry. 


I grow milling wheats; this year the quality was good, but Skyfall yields were variable – yielding just over 10t/ha down to 7-8t/ha, but the quality was good, with proteins in the 14% range. The weather was damp and gloomy in June and July, so it’s not very surprising that yields were down. 

What’s been valuable is that our drying costs were nil for the wheat and we’ve only had to dry some spring beans, plus we are very low cost establishment using no-till. 

Our oilseed rape (Elgar) is looking very good, we drilled it straight into Skyfall stubble and chopped wheat straw with 100 litres of liquid fertiliser; it won’t get anything else until the spring Astro Kerb. We will save seed back from this for next year’s plantings. We’ve had no issue with stem flea beetle – I don’t know whether it’s because we are no-till, with more soil beneficials, or because we never use insecticides, or because we are in a low pressure area; but we’ve been very fortunate. 

Blackgrass is an ongoing headache, but I do think no-till is helping us with the war on it. In previous years I wondered whether Atlantis/Pacifica was having any affect at all on the populations; this year, we can see, to a line, where either of these herbicides were sprayed and where they weren’t, so I’m sure it’s making a difference. 

We have 200 acres of cover crops in, but it went in late; as a result, and with the ongoing dry conditions, it’s not as far on as I would have liked. The mixture is oats + vetch + phacelia + linseed + fodder radish + vetch + clover. The seed cost was £30/ha.

In my experience, cover crops are best drilled after rape – it’s a good time to establish them in the longer days and when we are likely to have some heavy thunderstorms.

CropTec 2016

Good soil structure and factors that affect it, such as soil organic matter levels, cover crops and cultivation systems, are key to good establishment. All this and more discussed at this year's CropTec event.

We also have over 140 exhibitors at the event displaying the latest science and technology across the trade stands, while CropTec’s well established seminars and hubs will feature the latest thinking on a range of key arable topics delivered by leading specialists.

The event is free to attend for those visitors that pre-book their tickets. ALL visitors will be charged £15 on the day.

Nichola Bell

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