We know how our varieties perform in trial but what’s even more important is how they perform on farm, and that’s where our Growers Club comes in.
We recently caught up with new member Gavin Bowser, who farms near the Lincolnshire coast.
Croftmarsh Limited, Croft Marsh, Skegness, Lincolnshire
Area farmed: 1000 hectares
Soil types: Silty clay loam
Key crops: Winter wheat, oilseed rape, spring breaks including barley, wheat and beans. Some permanent grassland.
Typical cultivations: Shallow cultivation, low-disturbance drilling
Main markets: Feed
After two consecutive autumns when bad weather brought drilling to an early close, Gavin Bowser is planning to make an early start this season on his winter wheat, despite potential blackgrass pressure.
“Blackgrass has become the major headache on the farm,” says Gavin. “We used to start wheat drilling on 20 September, but in recent seasons held off to try to control it. Last autumn we started drilling in October and we ended up drilling into mud, so we had to stop.
“We only managed to get 280ha of our planned 400ha in this season, hence the decision to go earlier. It helps that most crops are clean – we can hand-rogue what blackgrass there is.
“We’ve moved to spring drilling, growing around 300ha each year – it’s definitely the way to fight blackgrass. Spring barley is particularly effective due to its competitive nature and the chemistry we can use, and we’ll use two consecutive crops in the worst fields.”
RGT Planet remains the variety of choice. “It seems to suit the farm, and although on paper it is now slightly behind on yield it does well here, and we also have the option of malting. It’s not our primary aim but three years ago it all went – the high yields probably help dilute the nitrogen.”
To further increase the pressure on blackgrass, Gavin has changed the cultivation programme. The plough and press has gone, replaced by shallow cultivation, low disturbance subsoiling where needed, before spraying off and drilling.
“We’ve recently moved to narrower coulters on the Horsch Sprinter tine drill, which is set at 25cm spacing, so we are moving less soil. This has helped reduce the blackgrass seed chit. From what I’ve seen so far, it appears to be working well.”
Given his intended early start on the wheat drilling programme this coming autumn, his decision to try a 10ha block of RGT Wolverine, Europe’s first commercially winter wheat with BYDV resistance, this season looks timely. BYDV can be a problem in his area, especially in early-sown crops, which are particularly attractive to aphid vectors.
“I think a variety like RGT Wolverine is probably the way forward when it comes to BYDV control – it looks like it will make managing the disease a lot easier,” says Gavin.
“It’s the main reason we are trying the variety – RGT Wolverine may not be strongest for foliar disease but it has had the same fungicide as everything else and looks good. Nothing had a T0 as it was cold and dry, but we used SDHI and triazole mixes at T1 and T2.”
Sizeable areas of Skyfall and RGT Gravity are also grown on the farm’s silty clay loams, all for feed. “Skyfall performs very well – it’s consistently been a good wheat and I shall be growing it again next year.
“We managed to keep it pretty clean without any trouble – we have a good agronomist and the sprayer capacity to get through crops in good time.
“It look as good as the Gravity, which we started growing a couple of years ago. It also suits us well, typically yielding around 10t/ha.”
Soils are generally in good heart, as Gavin incorporates plenty of farmyard manure. “I’ve not seen the need for cover cropping as yet, although we need to see what ELMS has in store for us.”
The farm is currently in Higher Level Stewardship, and Gavin is optimistic that farmers will continue to receive support payments for the long term, albeit with environmental strings attached. “We’ll have to be adaptable, but I someone tells us to do something differently, if it pays we need to do it.
“Most farmers only adopt environmental schemes because they pay better than growing crops on certain areas. It looks like ELMS will enable us to carry on doing that, and government will still be able to influence what we do, subsidising what we produce to help keep food cheap.”
Learn more and join the RAGT Growers Club here.