WTFIH @ Thriplow Farms, April 2020

For most of the time since my article last month, not a lot has been happening on the farm. The combination of cool weather and the constant topping up of soil moisture levels has meant that we haven’t been able to get on with as much field work as I would have liked. That is not to say we have done nothing though – all of the oilseed rape and winter wheat has received their first batch of nitrogen fertiliser. We had planned to put on a third of the total requirement onto the wheat in mid February, which is quite early. Again though, the weather delayed this a bit, and by the time we did apply it all at the start of March, it wasn’t really early at all. Perhaps because of this I could have increased the amount up to around half the total, but in the end we stuck with the original plan. Most of the oilseed rape has really started to pick up its fertiliser now, and is growing well. There is, however, a big question mark on a large field we have in Barrington, which seems to have been particularly badly affected by the flea beetle larvae. Some areas have been completely written off by the little bug[ger]s, so now the difficult job becomes where to draw the line of what is worth trying to save.

More recently, the weather has become a lot more in line with what we needed to get the rest of our spring work going. All of the fields which are due to be planted wth spring oats have had their first dose of fertiliser, and in fact we even managed to drill two of these fields on March 12 & 13. The rest will have to wait until the following week, as they are on heavier soil, which is still too wet. We have another 65 hectares of oats to drill, and the same area again of peas. I’m optimistic that they should all get off to a good start, and then it’s down to the Gods as to what happens next.

As tends to happen with farming, all the jobs come at once, so at the same sort of time that we will be drilling the oats and peas, we also need to be getting the remainder of the fertiliser onto the oilseed rape, and then towards the end of March, we will finish off the wheat fertiliser too. There is always a debate about the timing for this, as we have to balance the needs of the plant with the risk that it may not rain later in the spring, and also the tendency of the liquid fertiliser to scorch the leaves badly as we get warmer weather into April. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it’s about the only way we can see whether we made the right decisions or not during the previous season.

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