We know how our varieties perform in trials but what’s even more important is how they perform on farm, and that’s where our Growers Club comes in.
This month we catch up with Oxfordshire grower Adrian Taylor.
A J & M Taylor, Clattercote Priory Farm, Claydon, Oxfordshire
· Area farmed: 170ha and a further 580ha on contract
· Soil types: Silty clay loam, clay loam
· Key crops: Wheat, linseed, beans, spring oats
· Typical rotation: No fixed rotation – flexible approach helps keep on top of blackgrass
· Cultivations: Strip-till drilling with light cultivations as necessary
· RAGT varieties: Wheat: RGT Skyfall (120ha), RGT Illustrious (30ha), RGT Saki 5ha, RGT Stokes (4ha).
Things are pretty much back on track at Clattercote Priory Farm after Adrian Taylor made the most of the dry start to last autumn.
With two drills going some of the time he managed to sow a decent area of breadmaking wheat before a rain-induced two-week break.
‘We drilled about 120ha of RGT Skyfall and 30ha of RGT Illustrious into fairly clean ground at the end of September and beginning of October,” says Adrian.
“We used our Claydon Hybrid strip till drill as well as the Vaderstad, which we used to sow straight into bean stubble.
“The crops look good now – emergence was better behind the Vaderstad, probably due to the better tilth, but both varieties went into pretty good seedbeds.”
Several seasons of carefully managed chemistry and cultural controls including strip-till drilling and spring cropping have helped reduce the farms’ background blackgrass population. So, despite the early start, blackgrass appears to be well controlled with a pre-emergence application of Liberator followed by a post-emergence pass with Defy + Liberator.
Later-drilled wheats, mainly Group 3 varieties, were sown in less ideal conditions.
Adrian is also trying RGT Saki, RAGT’s newly recommended, very high yielding Group 4 wheat with excellent all-round disease resistance, and RGT Stokes, a Candidate feed variety with similar yields but even better Septoria resistance.
“We restarted from mid October after a lot of rain,” says Adrian. “Conditions were not particularly good and there were some nervous moments, but I’m glad we pushed on.
“A few areas on some of the heavier land don’t look particularly pretty, but they picked up after the first dose of nitrogen and sulphur which we applied to all wheats. When all’s said and done they should end up OK.”
Oilseed rape has been dropped after being hit hard by flea beetle larvae late last spring. “We thought we had a good crop but it just went backwards and we ended up taking it out,” says Adrian. “We’ve replace it with spring linseed, spring oats and winter and spring beans this season.”
All of the wheats are first wheat, with some following cover crops, either planted on some fields that couldn’t be drilled last spring or after cash crops were harvested.
“We’ve since bought a Techneat Terracast to sow behind all crops as short-term and overwintered covers. The intention is to drill into standing cover crops with the Claydon.
“As long as we don’t mulch, we don’t suffer any trash problems – we will spray the cover crops off just before or after drilling.”
Adrian has opted for a six-way cover-crop mix offering a range of rooting to improve soil structure and health. “We see this as long term benefit – we have some horribly heavy soil so wouldn’t expect to see an immediate improvement, but I’m convinced the benefits will come. At £12/acre it’s not overly expensive.”
Although soil health is one of the key pillars of the ELMS scheme, it is the long-term benefits rather than potential funding that is driving the cover cropping. The farm has a sizeable contracting business and is well diversified with a professional equine competition yard and holiday cottages.
“However, we will be looking at ELMS to see we can improve our farming with its help,” says Adrian.
Surprise yield from late-drilled Skyfall
Adrian made full use of RGT Skyfall’s drilling flexibility last year, sowing 62ha through January to mid March.
Although the variety has an end-of-February sowing cut-off date, RAGT backs it to the end of the first week of March and has seen later-drilled crops deliver acceptable yields.
Overall, the late-drilled RGT Skyfall at Clattercote Priory produced an average of 6.1t/ha. “We didn’t spend a huge amount on it, and there was too little moisture to apply late N, so we ended up not getting the protein,” says Adrian.
“But it worked out by far the best option– we didn’t have to buy expensive spring seed or overwinter the Skyfall, and ended up with a reasonable yield not too far behind some Group 3 wheats that had been muddled in earlier.”