This month we catch up with Yorkshire farmer Phil Meadley
• M Meadley & Sons, Grange Farm, North Frodingham, East Riding of Yorkshire
• Area farmed: 242 hectares
• Soil types: Sandy clay loam
• Key crops: Winter wheat, winter barley, spring barley, vining peas, hemp
• Key cultivations – direct drill where possible, min-till as required
• RAGT varieties: RGT Bairstow
Phil Meadley counts himself lucky this autumn, having manage to drill all his first wheats despite some very wet weather.
“We’ve been a lot luckier than some people – we got 30mm in one day recently, but there have been huge amounts of rain and flooding in Lincolnshire and parts of Yorkshire, so we got off pretty lightly.
“We started drilling winter wheat on 1 October. By pulling in contractors and using our own machine, we got the result we wanted, but it was difficult.”
Oilseed rape proved impossible. “We had straw on the ground so never got it worked and drilled,” says Phil. “We had halved the area anyway to 12ha, and we’ll let the ground out for potatoes. I’m a bit concerned about the amount of soil preparation, but we need to keep our break crop area up.
“Finding a profitable break that is reasonably easy to manage is going to be the conversation point this winter. We’re in a vining group too so we are limited.
“OSR is pretty much out of the window in this area – flea beetle and slugs have been horrendous. People have had viable crops emerge, but they’ve been cleared out. Until we get some flea beetle-resistant varieties I don’t know what we can do.”
Phil wants to maintain a decent area of spring cropping to help control blackgrass and condition the soil, using over-wintered covers, and to spread the workload.
He grew hemp for the first time last season and plans to grow about 15ha next spring. “It’s not particularly easy to establish, but it makes a good entry for winter wheat and is cheap to grow, being basically pesticide free,” he points out.
Phil still hopes to drill winter barley, but is contacting the plant breeder for the latest safe sowing date. “If we don’t manage it, we’ll swap it into more spring barley; it’s reasonably profitable crop for us and we can get a decent yield without a lot of expense. We’re already aiming for 35ha and the same amount of spring wheat.”
Phil has sown 75ha of winter wheats, split between RGT Bairstow, Astronomer and Typhoon.
“All have good Septoria resistance, which is important. It’s our biggest issue. We are on heavy land so sprayer access can be a problem. We need more resistant varieties to give us that three to four days of leeway we sometimes need.
“Our independent agronomist puts together a good spray programme and our spray contractor was on the money every time last season, but it’s good to have decent resistance in the background to help.”
Phil grew 5ha of RGT Bairstow as a look-see for harvest 23. “It yielded 10-10.5t/ha and produced a lovely looking sample. It stood well and did everything we wanted it to do.”
Results from an ADAS disease survey on the RGT Bairstow taken at ear emergence revealed green leaf areas of 99% and 98% on the flag and leaf 2 respectively, compared with the regional average of 93.5% and 71% and even lower national averages.
“There was a little bit of Septoria early in the season but it grew away well from that,” says Phil. “By the time early ear emergence came there was nothing on it.”
This autumn, one field of RGT Bairstow was drilled after vining peas with a demonstration Horizon direct drill on demo, the other was direct-drilled after grass using a Grange machinery tool bar and JD 750a drill.
“I believe we need a disc machine rather than our tined drill to give us better depth control and less disturbance for blackgrass control. We’re also drilling more spring crops, so it will enable us to drill into green covers.
“We’ve had lot of rain since we put the wheat in, but it looks OK,” says Phil. “I’m really impressed with the Horizon in the better parts of the field.
“Across the farm we will still have a few wet areas and I think crops will be a bit more stressed this autumn. But that’s heavy land for you.”