The big dry is digging in hard at Ballicherry with multiple fields of spring barley now being completely fried and large areas of wheat being burnt off too.

Though it’s is too early to start being sensational about yields, it’s pretty clear that they aren’t going to be anything like as good as they were last year. Disease pressure appears to be very low across both the wheat and the barley at the moment, and it is slightly frustrating to know we could have probably reduced fungicide spend significantly this year had we known what the weather had in store for us. Had we known we were going to have a drought like this, there are several of our very light fields we probably would have left as set aside and could have then avoided drilling autumn cover crops for our greening.

Our 20ha of AECS green manure fields which looked dreadful right through May and June have suddenly burst into life over the last 10 days or so. The purple blooms of phacelia not only look beautiful but are also attracting thousands of bees which is lovely.

On walking the crop, the cover is still thinner than we thought it would be, with very little of the direct drilled clover showing evidence of germinating and not much vetch to see either. It’s difficult to know how much of an impact the drought has had on it as we’ve never grown it before.

We have recently learned that we can potentially claim back the capital cost of the seed for establishing the green manure so next year we might splash out on a higher seed rate.

The drought is also causing problems on my husband Calum’s stock farm at Bunchrew where he has had to put in several new water troughs for the cattle due to springs drying up. He is also starting to get a bit concerned about his second cut silage as his grass is badly burnt in a lot of places.

During the last month on the farm, the sheds have all been mucked out and washed, the ewes have been clipped, and the combine is sitting ready to go. Both Heston balers are in the workshop getting pre-harvest maintenance, with baling of both bought straw and contract baling expected to start within the next few weeks.

Our Mecmar mobile grain drier is also getting serviced this week, and will then be set up in our main yard ready to discharge directly into our grain store.

OSR will be getting swathed within the next fortnight, with it hopefully getting lifted around the first week of August.

Mam and I have been busy roguing seed wheat and barley before inspections this past week, but due to the intolerable midday heat we’ve been doing the bulk of it in the mornings and evenings. Late night roguing in this weather had been a generally pleasant experience, until one evening I realised when the group chat started going off that I’d missed the first half hour of Love Island – first world problems!


Rachel farms on her family's 350-ha Ballicherry farm in the Black Isle, with her parents, Brian and Caroline Matheson. Mainly arable, they grow spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape and also run 150 Texel cross ewes and overwinter 100 head of cattle.