Updated: Jan 21
Plans are more or less back on track at Burley House Farm, South Milford, North Yorkshire, where Andrew Cawood has managed to complete the majority of his autumn drilling campaign.
It’s a very different picture from a year ago when a minimal amount of winter wheat was in the ground after monsoon-like conditions drew a line under drilling activity in September.
A total of 81ha is in the ground this season, including 23ha of RGT Saki that was drilled in good conditions this autumn after OSR on 19 September at 292 seeds/sq m.
“This was on our better loam land, although we had to work the ground back up as it slumped after an earlier pass with the Vaderstat Topdown,” says Andrew. “I like the sound of this variety – it is supposed to be very high yielding with good disease resistance.”
The crop looks very well, as does a 13ha block of RGT Gravity drilled on 29 September using overwintered seed at 315 seeds sq m. “Germination seems to have held up and the crop got away quickly,” says Andrew.
He is also trying RGT Bairstow this season on about 5ha. This Group 4 candidate variety produces very high yields of good quality grain, underpinned by excellent disease scores, orange wheat bloom midge resistance and good resistance to sprouting.
“We drilled it late, at the start of November, but it went in well enough. It should come on alright – we left the headlands and ploughed these afterwards as it had been wet for a few weeks beforehand.”
Spring barley RGT Planet is earmarked for those headlands and a further 50ha. “It’s more than I’d planned for, but I left 21ha of heavier land after peas undrilled. That would also have gone into RGT Gravity, but we were getting on with the lighter land so we kept going. By the time we got to it, it was too wet and just wasn’t making a job. I’m kicking myself for not going earlier.”
Oilseed rape sown at the end of August has grown away well in the main, although headlands are not great, says Andrew.
“Having spring barley as an entry for OSR can be a bit of a problem, and the barley was very late this year. I ended up getting a neighbour to direct drill the OSR after we had Flatlifted it. We had a bit of a slug issue, but we know from experience that crops that don’t look that good in the winter can often go on and produce very good yields – we got 4.19t/ha on average last harvest.”
Last season Andrew grew 97ha of RGT Planet, which went into spring-tined ploughing and was rolled before and after drilling. It went on to average 6.65t/ha.
Although that was well below the 8.45t/ha achieved in 2019, it was not far off the usual average, pretty exceptional given the challenges of very dry season followed by a rain-interrupted harvest, says Andrew.
“We started drilling on 23 March at just over 400 seeds/sq m, on land after peas, and got 7.2t/ha. We finished on 7 April – although the seed went in superbly, the ground dried out and didn’t get any further moisture until the end of May. We ended up with 4.5t/ha on that field.”
The crop didn’t make malting, as it suffered from secondary tillering and growth due to the variable growing conditions, a problem which hit many spring barley growers last year. This meant grain narrowly missed the germination specification, but overall Andrew was very satisfied with the crop’s performance.
“Spring barley seems to be fairly bullet proof. I considered growing beans as well, but I’ve talked to some people who did and they ended up with just 1t/ha.
“Under the circumstances, the barley yield was very good, and we sold it for £145/t for pig feed locally, which was only £8t below the price we received for full spec malting barley the year before."
“We’re growing a further 50ha of RGT Planet this year. I can’t think of a better malting variety – it has a good track record on this farm, we know how to grow it, so there’s no reason to change.”
A & S M Cawood, Burley House Farm, South Milford, North Yorkshire
Area farmed: 240ha
Soil types: Sandy silt loam to silty clay loam, all over magnesium limestone.
Key crops: Winter wheat (feed), winter barley (feed), spring barley (malting), winter oilseed rape, spring beans. Land rented for vining peas and potatoes.
To learn more about RGT Planet download the latest datasheet.