July Crop Update

1st August 2018

July has been a month for all systems go – with the Oilseed Rape harvest started and finished and the majority of the Wheat in the shed before the end of the month. The dry weather has been challenging but the last weekend of July brought a welcomed covering of rain. Something to dampen the dust at least.

Oilseed Rape

Our crop of KWS Campus have been holding on very well in the dry and hot weather. Unsurprisingly, the 66cm wide rows provided ample space for the plants to branch from lower down and created a good canopy of pods. Plants had access to a large reservoir of untilled soil either side of the tilled strip which gave roots the perfect environment to draw nutrients and residual moisture, perfect considering the dry season we and many have experienced.

The combine rolled out of the shed on the 10th and returned on the 19th. Overall, I was pleased with the harvest with yields averaging 4t/ha, a touch lower than the 4.5t/ha we would usually expect. Given the extreme weather I think the minimal yield loss is testament to how well strip tillage lends itself to reducing the risk associated with unpredictable seasons. I was concerned about brown seeds, but the sample proved to be very good and one of the best that the grain merchant had seen.


Better than expected, the OSR harvest showed only minimal impacts from the dry weather


After missing its application last year because of the wet weather, we took the opportunity to have lime spread on the OSR stubbles. Spreading lime is part of our approach to keeping our soils in good health, helping to support crop growth and improve fertility. The dry weather gave us the perfect opportunity to get on causing minimal damage. Organised by John Prentis our local lime man, the spreaders arrived just in time for the weekends showers and another job well done.

Arriving just in time, before a weekend shower the application was quick and efficient

Winter Wheat

Not too unlike the OSR the Winter Wheat also fared well throughout another hot and dry month. However, the lack of rain was a concern for grain fill and I wasn’t holding out any hope for a record harvest.

Perhaps the earliest Wheat harvest to date on the farm, we went in to some of the lighter fields on the 21st of July. The crop came off well but the absence of any rainfall since spring drilling was apparent in an overall lower yield across the farm. Still, I am more than happy and confident that strip tillage is the way forward with this years’ average yield of 9t/ha still being 1.5t/ha higher than what we were achieving before strip tillage in a good year on this farm.

Lower establishment costs give us extra security in difficult years


About the only green thing left on the farm, the Soya seems to be enjoying the heat not too dissimilar to that of its native environments. The lack of moisture on the other hand has been a concerning factor especially as we got closer to pod fill, but, in true skin of our teeth style we were blessed with rain at the end of July – the first measurable rain on the farm since May.

The Soya received its fungicide treatment on the 3rd of July with the product Azoxystar (Azoxystrobin) that has now been granted an EAMU for its use in Soya. The availability of chemicals approved for Soya is still relatively low but as time goes on and the crop grows in national area this should change.

Soya in 66cm rows growing well - Taken 5th July


Considering by the end of July the Maize had no real rain to speak of since it germinated I am quietly impressed with its performance. It’s not going to be a record-breaking crop, but then it was never intended to be anything more than cover for wildlife, and a demonstration plot for the Mzuri Pro-Til Xzact precision seeder. Throughout the growing season the minimal rainfall showed no signs of holding the crop back, thanks to drilling directly into moisture beneath the radish cover crop stubble. Week to week even day to day, the growth has been astounding given the difficult year.

With it looking like August could be equally as dry it will be a testing time to get the cover crops and rape planted. I’m a strong believer in not rushing into things for the sake of a date and if waiting a couple of weeks longer means we benefit from a shower or two then that decision must be made when the time comes. Hopefully we will see some rain in August to dampen the ground and kickstart the 2018/19 season. Where has the time gone?


Ben Knight

Farm Manager

The Maize has been astounding given the farm received no rainfall since spring drilling


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