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 Philip Meadley, who farms near Driffield in East Yorkshire.
M Meadley & Sons, Grange Farm, North Frodingham
Area farmed: 242 hectares
Soil types: Sandy clay loam
Key crops: Winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, spring barley, spring beans, vining peas
Typical cultivations: Based on single-pass seed-bed (Sumo Trio) plus shallow disc cultivation as required, low-disturbance drilling
RAGT varieties: RGT Saki
Using varieties and crop mixtures to help protect returns is becoming increasingly important for the family farming business of M Meadley & Sons, an all-arable unit covering 242ha at North Frodingham near Driffield.
Problems such as flea beetle and blackgrass are taking on a new importance on the Yorkshire farm, while disease, notably Septoria tritici, is an ever-present threat. All this, coupled with the withdrawal of key active ingredients in recent years, means the business is having to find additional solutions to the sprayer to stay ahead.
Companion cropping in oilseed rape is being tried for the first time this season to help reduce damage from cabbage stem flea beetle. The 12ha crop of RGT Beetleblocker, a mix of Blackmillion hybrid oilseed rape, berseem clover and fenugreek, appears to have done a good job.
Partner Philip Meadley says: “It seems like it has worked – it got away well and looked better through the winter than our straight hybrid rape variety. There was less beetle pressure and the fact the rape was growing with other plants has pushed it on. The clover also seems to have helped the rape put its roots down.
“Frosts killed off most of the companion plants and I’m happy with the Blackmillion. If the yield reflects its performance so far we’ll be growing more next season.”
Good disease control
Septoria tritici ratings are increasingly driving winter wheat choice. “We look for high ratings in all our wheats,” says Philip. “This season we’ve grown RGT Saki, Firefly, Gleam, Extase and Belepi.
“We chose RGT Saki last year to give us a little more latitude in our spray timings, rather than to try to save money on fungicides, and it did well. We are growing 33ha this season, drilled in mid October after peas and beans.
“Septoria has not been an issue – we applied a tebuconazole/folpet at T0 and SDHI/azole combination at T1, rather than going cheap and cheerful, and again at T2. We’ve also had very little rust. We managed to find a weather window for each timing, so crops have been well protected.”
Low vernalisation wheat
September drilling, once routine, is now avoided due to blackgrass. But late drilling carries its own risks, especially this far north so growing a wheat with a wide sowing window like Belepi helps provide insurance.
After reading an article about RGT Flintoff, a potential breadmaker up for recommendation this autumn, Philip is keen to find out more.
“I’m looking for a higher yielding, higher quality alternative to Belepi – we supply the flour mill at Driffield so we could get a premium. I understand RGT Flintoff also has a very low vernalisation requirement, so it could take the pressure off in the autumn.
“I’d be very keen to try some this autumn. It’s good that RAGT has set up a Growers Club to help trial new varieties commercially. We growers need to know what works in our areas, on our farms. Some breeders seem to miss this.”
The Meadleys are also aiming to improve the farm’s sandy clay soils to help boost crop resilience and performance further. Cover cropping has been tried over several years to increase levels, which average around 3.5%, with varying success.
“Crops need to be established early to succeed, which is not easy to achieve this far north. We’ve tried various combinations; stubble turnips grazed by sheep probably worked fairly well.
“We’ll carry on looking at options ahead of spring crops, perhaps integrating some livestock grazing into the system, which appears to be the best way of restoring organic matter levels, rather than relying on cover crops alone.”
The partners are also reducing the number and intensity of cultivations to improve soils further. Most ground is worked with a single pass of the Sumo Trio, and a Guttler Supermaxx, purchased two years ago, is waiting in the wings.