All of the oilseed looks well: even where it was pigeon grazed the strong tap roots established in the benign autumn have pulled the crops through. While there is a spread of development the earliest have finished flowering and the latter are fast following with good pod set and clean plants. We will top up nitrogen with a Nufol application in the next ten days. Weed control, with the strong crop growth helping, looks encouraging although unpleasant surprises can lurk in thinner patches. As I said last month, things are encouraging yield wise against a disappointing forward price.
Our wheats really do show early and late drilling differences with the early ones powering through to t2 and booting if not on schedule then in front of what one might expect.
However even with the rain when I walk across the various blocks I think the dry weather has thinned the tiller numbers and been a cause of small flag leaves so the drought has had an effect which will follow through to final yield. It is not at all like last year when every wheat field was full of promise. One consolation is the dry weather and robust fungicide programmes have produce clean canopies with green leave all the way down to the base of plants.
Spring crops are where the real problems caused by the lack of rain are evident. There is certainly a split between what went into moisture and came up and that which went in dry and laid there for three to four weeks. Spring beans being earlier are largely unscathed and are responding by growing away quickly now.
Spring barley where the dryer seed beds held back germination are only now showing full rows and of course in the same fields better soil allowed rapid early emergence leading to well tillered crops needing fungicide treatment. We will be travelling round Kent innumerable times with sprayers and in due course combines to accommodate varying crop maturity.
One thing common to all the spring crops is the poor residual weed control before the rain. I do now wish we had waited until we actually saw the weather break before drilling not just because of the drilling conditions but the lack of moisture to bring crops through and activate the residuals properly. A further glyphosphate would have cleared the emerged black-grass that we now have in uneven emerging barley crops and where crop competition is yet to be effective. I was just not patient enough.
Having expected uncertainty during the election and indeed after it, to help with currency movements it was all a bit disappointing and the actual election result has certainly moved us to a stronger currency position versus the euro and the dollar: so not much help there at the moment. The travails in Greece rumble on to no great effect but will have to conclude sometime. As we can sell our produce cheaply at any time in the next 12 months it seems logical to sell spot to accommodate cash flow needs and see if something turns up.
On other matters there is good news as our barn owls have returned and have hatched chicks with adults hunting from early dusk to after dawn over a considerable area from our main farm yard at Down Court. This is so encouraging that we are putting owl boxes – supplied at a very reasonable price by the Barn Owl Centre – up at some of our other farmyards. While most of the pleasure is seeing barn owls hunt I am quite happy to help them reestablish elsewhere and if they keep breeding at Down Court the offspring will need new territories and breeding sites.
Finally a new variation on a perennial problem. We found a small group of people trespassing in a block of woodland along with the obligatory caravan. They had broken through an old gate, cleared an area, built a shelter, erected a shed and were busy fencing the boundary as well as installing a new gate with shiny padlock and chain. Upon being challenged they stated that they now owned the ground because they had checked on line and the Land Registry had confirmed it was not registered so they had applied and laid claim to it on the necessary forms. Attending police officers checked our title number with the Land Registry who suddenly decided it was registered in our names and they had inadvertently misled the gentleman in question. The situation was resolved, the trespassers left and the entrance became a bund. But this is just another example where inefficient bureaucracy can cause a really difficult situation in the real world.