The Spring from Hell or the ingredients to a bumper harvest?

By Russell Price

It’s nice to sit in the office looking at the beautiful rain falling outside on the now lush crops and enjoy the fact we have finally caught up with the workload, apart from an onslaught of T2 Recs. It’s also nice to reflect on the hectic last 6 weeks of supreme effort the team have put in to get us back on schedule and feel grateful that all the masses of shiny machinery (that Harry Henderson indicates I have too much of) has enabled us to cover operations at an astonishing work rate given that spring only sprung here in Herefordshire in the last week of April. Is the threat of Climate change a way of us paint junkies, feeling justified?

Our crops look full of potential at the moment and although my fingers are crossed that the weather will be kind to us from here to harvest, I anticipate we can achieve better yields than the last couple of years.

Herefordshire Monitor Farm in May 2018

Cultivations try-out

Good old stalwart JB Diego makes up most of our second wheat area and looks fantastic and unlike last year has been relatively clean of disease. The other front runner that is showing great promise is Sundance however The Graham, Siskin and Costello all look respectable too. We didn’t manage to get any T0 on and delayed the first application of nitrogen until the ducks stopped swimming in the tramlines so it does make you question why we rush so much in normal springs to feed and protect the plants.

Oil Seed Rape has finished flowing and the pleasant sight of multiple pods is a good sign however only the view of a yield meter will deliver the potential the crops has.

We have stuck with hybrid Belfry Barley, mainly because the fields we have planted are around woodland and the wildlife seem to love to graze anything we dare to sow and straw prices have been through the roof this year and the extra volume we bale goes a long way to pay the additional seed cost. As a livestock farmer myself, I think the Oil seed Rape straw may find its way into the cattle shed this year as a cheaper alternative.

Spring rape was drilled into a less than ideal seedbeds however all seems to emerged well and the welcome rain will enable it to motor away from rampant flea beetle grazing. Other land designated for spring wheat has been drilled with Italian Rye grass instead as it will be mown, grazed and provide winter cover for a crop of potatoes next spring.

I am very much looking forward to hosting the ADAS, Herefordshire Monitor Farm open day at Bishops Frome on the 19 June this year. Not only have we got a vast array of variety, fungicide and weed screen trials to show you but we have also done a wheat establishment trial in an adjacent field that is showing some interesting results. Please come along and take a peak if only for a free butty, some friendly chat and a comparison of how deep is my tramline!!

Martin and myself are also very excited to be hosting a group of French Farmers that we visited last autumn, on a 2 day tour of Herefordshire that same week. Maybe we can broker our own little trade deal in the bar after a Kronenbourg or two. If you’re interested to meet our competition/Allies please contact Martin, Richard or myself for an itinerary.

Happy Harvesting


Martin Williams and Russell Price

Martin Williams and Russell Price

Russell Price and Martin Williams are between them hosting the new Monitor Farm for Herefordshire. Included in their rotations wheat, barley, peas, beans, oilseed rape and potatoes. Martin farms 800 ha arable crops on the banks of the River Wye at Fownhope, and also has a small flock of Jacob sheep and rents out land for grazing. Martin’s particular challenges are trying to decrease his cost of production, be successful in a very competitive market and to efficiently manage crops with limited chemical availability. On the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border, Russell Price’s arable farming operation includes 360 ha farmed in-hand, 290 ha contract farmed and 130 ha potatoes grown. The challenges faced by Russell’s business include black-grass, improving soil health, efficiency of crop nutrition and building a resilient farming business to withstand volatility. Working together to form this joint Monitor Farm, Russell and Martin are confident that this collaboration will allow them to make comparisons in their businesses, thus providing a wide array of topics around which local farmers can share knowledge and best practice.

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