Kris Grzelak, Farm Manager

Here at Tuckwell Farms, we finished cutting the beans last Wednesday, drawing a close to harvest this year. We started cutting wheat on the 15th August which took around 3 weeks. The weather was rubbish for the entire duration, with no sunshine and dull weather, leading to bad harvesting conditions. Overall it was a very average harvest, with very varied yields.

One of the biggest challenges we have to contend with this year was a fungal disease called ergot. Fortunately we don’t see this disease very often as there is no treatment for it, but unfortunately we had the perfect conditions for it this year. This disease tends to favour Rye but other grasses such as black grass and wheat will also host the fungi. This meant we were at high risk of being affected. This was definitely a low point of harvest for us this year, as this means that some of the wheat could get rejected. 

Our plan moving forward is to reduce the amount of spraying we are doing, however the black grass still needs to be managed. The way to achieve this is rotation and delayed drilling but also improving the drainage on the farm. This means incorporating spring drilled crops into the rotation such as peas and parsley, which will allow for delayed drilling in the spring and hopefully mean getting on top of the black grass.

Our thoughts are now turning towards winter wheat drilling, having around 1000 acres to drill. We are going to try many different things this year, aiming to move towards a lower till system. This is a process which we are building up to. Our soils need remedial work before we get to this stage so we are busy relieving compaction with our Grange farm LDL and planting cover crops to ensure we always have a green cover and living root system in our fields. 

Another part of this process can be seen in our soils project, where we are looking at a plough based system, gradually moving towards a no till system. Here, we are looking at the effects on what these systems have on the soil long term and how we are building organic matter into the soil.

Was there any machinery that you had new this year that you couldn’t have done without?

This year we used the majority of the same machinery as last year. We have had the John Deere 750A for a couple of years now, which has been in the shed for the last 2 seasons because it has been too wet!  One of the things we have done this year is convert our Vaderstad Rapid Drill into a 3 row set up by getting rid of the level board. We found with the 2 row set up that the soil does’t flow through and blocks very easily. With the new 3 row set up we can now drill directly into cover crops as it allows the trash to flow through easily, even in stickier soil conditions. This conversion is worthwhile as it means you will have a more versatile drill in different situations, a definite recommendation from Tuckwell Farms!

Thoughts for the future…

This is the first year we have grown parsley and it has worked very well in terms of controlling black grass and is definitely going to be one of our key crops for the future. This year we halved our acreage of oil seed rape. Along with the parsley, we replaced this with more wheat and peas. This has worked very well as marrowfat peas are fantastic for fixing nitrogen for the following crop, working particularly well where we are growing wheat after in the rotation.

Overall morale is high at the moment as we are on top of everything at this stage of the year and have done a lot of drainage which puts us in a good position. Provided we get crops drilled in good conditions, then we are looking forward to a good year next year!

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