Our Farm: Rapid growth of Oil Seed Rape & Cover Crops progress

In the previous instalment of Our Farm, we talked about crop planning for 2021 and the success of the winter drilling period, with all of our winter crops drilled into really good conditions with warm soils and good seed beds resulting in some promising early growth.

That promising early growth has continued throughout the past four to six weeks since we were last down and, if anything, the oil seed rape has probably established a bit too well as it’s looking a bit thick, while the winter barley and winter wheat are growing away quite nicely.

The ambient temperature is still pretty mild but it’s forecast to get a bit colder towards the end of this week, so we’re probably looking at the spray windows and we’ve still got a few things to do before we shut the gate for the winter.

Soil temperatures are 8 degrees and falling so we’re thinking of doing propyzamide applications to our two fields of oil seed rape to tidy up some grass weeds and, given that soil conditions mean we can still travel, we hope to be able to do some grass weed tidy-ups in our wheats as well.

In terms of insecticides, we’ve not really got a huge amount of aphid pressure – especially not with the colder weather forecast for later in the week – so that should hopefully stop them reproducing. But insecticides for aphid pressure only tend to be beneficial for the early drilled cereal crops, because some of the later drilled crops it’s not beneficial to take out your beneficial insects as well as your aphids, so that barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) risk is overall quite low.

We’ve still got a bit of winter ploughing to do – we’ve just got two fields to do this year because we’ve got a few cover crops in.

We’ve got two different mixtures in this year in two different fields and they’ve established in slightly different ways as well. The first cover crop we drilled with a one-pass system was oats, black oats and vetch. That’s gone into a really heavy field but it’s established surprisingly well considering how it went in, so we’re very pleased with that.

Next door to that field we’ve put in forage rye, again with some vetch. This field was actually even heavier so we disked it before running over it with a combination drill. This has definitely established better so we’re quite encouraged given how late we drilled these as there’s quite a lot of growth.

We won’t be grazing them with any sheep this year so we need to have a think as to how we destroy these cover crops and incorporate all the plant matter that is currently above ground into the soil to give our spring crop next year the best start to the season.

That’s probably a conversation for some of you who are doing similar things to have with your agronomists or advisers.

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