February 2015 at Wantage Monitor Farm

Our crops are looking well, apart from some of the re-drilled OSR which is a bit patchy and thin, but there’s enough there to pick up in the spring unless we have some really dire weather in the next six weeks. The propyzamide is slowly starting to show its effect on black-grass, which, along with the autumn spray, worked reasonably well. This means I should get virtually 100% control this harvest.

There is a lot of septoria in the wheat and the barley is starting to look sick and yellow with mildew present. However I am not tempted to start fungicide programmes early. I think it is more important not to have any gaps once the programme starts.

Soil temperatures are 5°C as I write this which is too cold for plants to take up nitrogen so I have held off applications to date.

We have been spending money! A £20,000 water mains job is finished for which there will be no return on capital. The new spray store is going up for a cool £50,000. Again difficult to see the return but perhaps if chemical is short, I will benefit from having been able to buy and store a lot of chemical now. My season’s supply of chlorothalonil, cyproconazole and pendimethalin is all ordered now.

Although we have spent a lot of money, I am not sure how I am going to pay for it! The old crop is virtually sold out but it is not looking exciting for new crop on current prices. I have updated my 2015 cost of production estimates and while some of these are below my budgeted sale price (just) rape and bean are significantly higher. However for all crops, the budgeted sale price is still well short of current trade values. Hence I have not sold much. A big dilemma. Do I sell some, fix the shortfall, and hope yield and future prices will make up lost ground later?

Further to our Monitor Farm meetings before Christmas on precision farming and soil nutrition, I am getting organised for some field ‘try-outs’ this year. I have secured the use of a ‘Fritzmeier Isaria’ to judge some variable rate N applications and we will also be looking to feed the soil bugs.

Although it’s wet again now, I think and hope spring is round the corner and am really looking forward to seeing the crops flourish – they will need to!



Julian Gold is a farm manager in East Hendred, Oxfordshire. He farms 800ha on a five-year rotation of oilseed rape, winter wheat, spring beans, winter wheat and second wheat, winter or spring barley. There are also sheep and shoot enterprises on farm. Julian is passionate about sustainable intensification, soil health and Controlled Traffic Farming. East Hendred has highly alkaline, silty clay loam soil over chalk, with 679mm average yearly rainfall.