The last few weeks have been busy with preparing for our Scottish Quality Crops and Quality Meat Scotland inspections, which we had in the middle of December and went well, and continuing with ploughing. We have been taking some time in the office to work out what varieties of barley we are going to grow next year so we can get seed ordered.

On the malting front we are going with increased areas of Sassy and Laureate, both which did very well for us last season in terms of yield and quality. We won’t be growing any Concerto this year as found the new varieties outstripped it in terms of yield. In regard to seed crops we are growing Sassy and Diablo. Last year we grew seed Sassy, Laureate, Concerto and Chronicle, and are hoping growing only two seed varieties will make things logistically easier at harvest time. Diablo is not a variety we have grown before but appears to have yielded well for growers last season following being added to the AHDB recommended list.

One of the fields we are putting into seed Diablo had a green manure crop of phacelia and vetch in it last season and we are a little bit concerned that there might be a lot of volunteers coming up from the phacelia as it seemed to have an awful lot of seeds, though maybe they will be killed off by the frost – we will just have to wait and see and ensure we use a robust herbicide programme. We are also still looking into buying a new grain/root trailer and have priced both new and ex-hire options. By the time you factor in haulage up to Inverness from England for a nearly new ex-hire trailer the price difference is very minimal, so we will likely end up buying a new one. We plan to keep our old Larrington root trailer and use it for dung and carrots, hence increasing the longevity of the new trailer.

The year end is a good chance to look back at the year as a whole and to analyse thing we have differently through the year and how they have worked out. This past season saw us switch to using all liquid trace elements which we bulk bought directly from Yara in the form of their Gramitrel product. We did this due to issues we had had the previous season with granular trace elements not dissolving in our hard water, which is from our own private water supply, causing very frequent choked nozzles on the sprayer, which was driving Dad to insanity. The bulk purchase seemed to be cost effective while getting a high quality, easy to use product which worked well with our high PH water, and since switching we have had very minimal nozzle issues.

We have decided to do this again and ordered all our trace elements for 2019 at the start of the month. Looking ahead to things we are going to do differently in 2019 we have decided to go down the route of variable rate potash and have bought a new KRM fertiliser spreader which will be arriving on farm at some point in the early spring. We hope this new technology will help us to increase yields and reduce costs by directing potash to where it is required the most.