“Autumn sowing completed on time” – we catch up with North Yorkshire grower Stephen Mason
We recently caught up with Stephen Mason, who farms near Malton in North Yorkshire.
JP Mason & Sons, East Farm, Langton, Malton, North Yorkshire
- Area farmed: 1600 hectares
- Soil types: All types, from heavy clay to sand, wold land with flint
- Key crops: Winter wheat, winter/spring barley, winter oilseed rape, winter/spring beans
- Typical cultivations: Sumo Trio or plough and cultivate, Vaderstad drill
- RAGT varieties: RGT Grouse, RGT Bairstow, RGT Lantern
- Key markets: Local feed mills, Ripon Select Foods
Stephen and the team made the most of the drier September and October and ended up completing their autumn drilling plan before the weather broke.
Oilseed rape has been the biggest and costliest challenge, with just under half the area drilled succumbing to flea beetle. “We couldn’t start sowing until the middle of August which didn’t help – we like to begin at the start of the month if we can,” says Stephen.
“When we started, conditions were fine, but we were rained off. We restarted the last 57ha on 8th September, which ended up being much better than the area we drilled beforehand.
“Most of what is left is OK. The land is now really wet, so we’re applying Kerb where we can.”
Oilseed rape will remain in the rotation. “It’s a job to know what else to grow, but we’ll be looking to conventional varieties – we spent a lot of money on hybrid seed on the back of better yields this harvest, but that didn’t work out.
“Conventional OSR has always done better for us in the past, so we will drill it cheap, see if it grows and if not, put something else in.”
BYDV resistant wheat
About 800ha of first and second wheats are in the ground. Drilling began with RGT Grouse on 15 September, one of RAGT’s Genserus (Genetic Security Virus) varieties that are resistant to barley yellow dwarf virus, omitting the need for autumn insecticide.
“We understand Grouse is very similar to Gleam, which is often our best yielder, so we are trying 40ha this season,” says Stephen. “Most autumns it gets too wet to spray, leaving us defenceless against BYDV.
“We’ve never had a disaster with the disease, but we’ve often seen it when spraying or fertiliser spreading in the spring, and you can get sub-clinical effects too.
“And there is an SFI option that pays £45/ha for growing insecticide-free crops. I’m not sure we’ll be in time this year, but looking forward it’s something we might as well be doing.”
Stephen suspects it is only a matter of time before merchants start offering bonuses for insecticide-free grain. “Some are doing it for regen grain – that and SFI payment could make quite a difference,” he says.
All the wheats look well, says Stephen. First wheats include RGT Bairstow, RAGT’s high-yielding soft Group 4 soft wheat with a very wide sowing window, and hard feed RGT Lantern, which remains one of the best second wheats available and features in that slot.
“We have 100ha of each this season,” says Stephen. “We’ve grown both for several years and haven’t seen anything that makes us want to replace them yet.”
Autumn drilling finished on 26 October, with an extra field of wheat that was down for spring barley. “There wasn’t much blackgrass so we drilled it. We also took the opportunity to drill some more winter barley but some looks a bit sick – we should have left it.”
While crops are not as far forward as autumn 2022, that is no bad thing, says Stephen. “We had a lot of laid corn last harvest after the awful weather in July. But, In the end the wheat averaged over 9t/ha, which we were pretty happy with. Bushel weights were all within spec, some Hagbergs were marginal, but it was always going to be like that.
“We probably drilled some varieties too early and we applied nitrogen from mid February, probably too soon. Everything gets muck so we are not short of nitrogen.
“We did soil sample but the amount suggested we should cut back seemed a bit unbelievable, so we went between, but maybe the advice was right. We will sample some areas again this season to see how it compares, but with it being so wet I can’t see nitrogen levels being so high.”