With a little over 300 Ha. across several locations in Hampshire and Dorset my business is now largely focused on fruit and vegetables for ‘pick your own’ sites and sales through Farmers Markets. I also have farm diversifications such as various forms of accommodation (shepherd’s huts, yurts, wigwams and cabins), events (weddings, circus, shows).
However, I still grow around 200 Ha. of cereals and do a small amount of contracting but aim to keep cereal production as easy and flexible as possible so that the fruit and veg enterprises can take priority whenever necessary.
This was the first year ever that I have grown no wheat at all. Like so many other people this Spring I had to rip up almost 100 Ha of Oilseed Rape that just didn’t establish well. I re-drilled that land as well as another 60 Ha. with Spring Barley in March. That was all Concerto for malting and it performed really well. It seems to be an easy-to-grow malting variety and looked good right through, producing good samples and at least average yields at harvest. In addition I planted 50 Ha. of Spring Oats, variety Saffron. This was very simple to grow and only needed one pass through the crop with a herbicide + fungicide tank mix. Traditionally oats can be prone to shed and go flat if not harvested at exactly the right time but, though there was a bit of lodging, these were easy to combine and waited until it was convenient for the combine to go in.
This year I was working with a new John Deere T550 combine with a 20ft. header, compared to the previous one which was 30ft. I did miss the extra capacity but had no major problems despite the usual harvest showers at times and, with no grain drier and the fruit and veg enterprises to deal with, I got through by doing most of the combining in the afternoons. I think this has been one of the best harvests in years in the south of England. Fortunately I sold the Spring Barley forward for malting at £170 but didn’t take advantage of the £171 offered in March for the Spring Oats and ended up with £130 last week. Winter Oats straw is always in demand for bedding and I am wondering if the Spring Oat straw may have good feed value like Spring Barley straw. It was certainly the most dazzling golden straw I have seen.
Having had my fingers burned this year with OSR I am planning to sow all spring crops again next year and leave the OSR to the bigger, professional growers. I also have Sterile brome on some of the land and hope to get on top of that, at worst keeping it to the headlands, by leaving the weeds to green up and chimp naturally in the autumn before spraying off with Roundup. I will min-till with a Weaving Subdisc, new for this season and drill with a Kuhn Megant in Spring but may do some winter ploughing this time where necessary to combat the Sterile brome. I prefer to grow oats as they wait better at harvest and dry easier but Spring Barley prices are higher so it will probably all go into Concerto for malting again, unless of course reviews on Farmers Review UK persuade me that something else is performing better!