By Rachel Young

July has been a pretty typical Highland summer month with erratic weather ranging from roasting hot and dry, to warm and wet, to cold, and then onto torrential rain. There were definitely a few farmers and agronomists within the area who had a sleepless night worrying about crops on the 10th of July with an evening of severe rain and flooding.

My husband Calum, was most annoyed that evening to have missed the end of ‘Love Island’ when he had to go and divert a torrent of water that was tearing through his day old grass re-seed. Fortunately, all of our crops survived the night unscathed, mainly due to our grain fill at that time being minimal, but I was glad I had put growth regulator on almost all the spring barley.

Spring barley crops are looking very well with substantial crops of straw looking likely, and hopefully good grain yields if we get a bit of sunshine. Our Diablo crops in particular look fantastic, though the Sassy and Laureate are also looking strong, although there are some patches in fields that got drowned out with the wet weather in May and June and haven’t come to much.

We noticed shortly after applying T2 to the spring barleys that one field had become infected with Rhyncosporium, something I’ve never actually seen in real life before. The field had been treated with Siltra Xpro (Prothiaconazole and Bixafen) at T1 then Prothioconazole and Chlorothalonil at T2, the same as many other fields which had no disease. Our only reasoning for the cause of the infection is that with the catchy weather the crop must have been wet or got rained on immediately after spraying, impacting the effectiveness of the T1, which is no surprise given the season.

We’ve applied a T3 and it seems to have had good curative effect and I imagine will be well worth the cost when you consider the potential loss in yield Rhynco can cause.

All seed barley and seed wheat crops have been rogued, inspected and passed, and all the sheds have been cleaned out and power washed ready for harvest. We will be spending the next few days getting our grain drier in position and set up ready to start drying, as our OSR was swathed on Monday, so harvest is now feeling imminent.

It looks like there might be quite a big gap between OSR harvest and spring barley harvest, particularly as we can’t spray off any of the seed crops and we are currently thinking we won’t be harvesting SB until after August 15, obviously depending on the weather.

Looking ahead to next season, we aren’t planning on drilling any OSR as it is getting increasingly difficult to grow due to the various issues such as pests and loss of plant protection products. This current season’s crop has suffered damage from both cabbage stem flea beetle and pollen midge, while last year we had to plough a field in the spring due to severe clubroot infection. Add to that, the fact it’s such a rush trying to get OSR rape drilled in the middle of harvest which is by far our busiest time and we felt is was time for a change.

Instead, we’ll likely increase the area of wheat going in this autumn, which is obviously much more flexible than OSR in terms of drilling date for us here in the Highlands.

FACTfile

Rachel farms at her

family’s 350-hectare

Ballicherry Farm, in

the Black Isle, with

her parents, Brian and

Caroline Matheson. It is

mainly arable, growing

spring barley, wheat,

oilseed rape and carrots, though they

also have 150 Texel cross

ewes.