What a peculiar week with every season being represented by the weather. It began dry with lots of sunshine, although the breezes were chilly. One morning the temperature had dipped enough to give a frost , which I have to say I was not up early enough to see. Then the rain and wind arrived, with a total rainfall for the week amounting to 40 mm, 25 mm of which fell on the last day of September. Here on Manor Farm the total rainfall for September was 41.5 mm, so quite a dry month .

Fortunately we managed to plant all our winter barley and wheat before the rain arrived, a very different scenario to last year when we were unable to plant about a third of our arable acreage. On Chiverlins Farm Kevin has planted all his winter barley and some of his wheat, but he is currently awaiting the delivery of 50 acres worth of seed, so hopefully the rain will soon stop to allow planting. Winter wheat is usually planted between 20th September and mid October. Early planting can be advantageous for germination, but the downside is the increased vulnerability to attack from pests. There are many other factors such as location , soil type and variety to consider. However it is possible to plant winter wheat in January, but this is probably not the best time .

After planting all the fields were sprayed with a specially selected pre-emergence herbicide. This will prevent the growth of any weed seeds which remain in the soil, allowing the cereal crops to germinate and become established before winter sets in. Ian and Kevin are both able to spray crops as they have had training and are on the National Register of Sprayer Operators. They both have to attend events and courses where they can be kept up to date, earning the required amount of NRoSO points to keep them on the register. There are many rules associated with spaying, including regular servicing of spraying equipment and safe handling and storage of any chemicals used. It is in consultation with their agronomists that Ian and Kevin are advised on which chemicals to use and when to use them, depending on the variety of weeds seen growing in the fields prior to planting that will have shed seeds onto the ground.

There is also a requirement to keep up to date and accurate records. Every time a procedure is needed , such as the use of a spray, our agronomist gives us a worksheet setting out the chemicals and concentrations to be used on each crop. Ian and Kevin then have to fill in all the details on the spraying report with the time and date , including weather conditions, temperature, wind speed and direction at the time of spraying . This is in conjunction with a crop plan, listing the fields, acreages, crop grown and variety. Ian told me when he finished it would take him a day to fill in the report for the cereals planted during the last week. Another very important consideration is the position of any water courses or ponds, close to which spraying must be avoided at all times.

At this time of year there is often an abundance of crane flies, also known as daddy-long -legs. On my walks around the farm I have noticed a large number of Tipula Oleracea , a large species of crane fly which rests with it's 6cm wings outstretched.It is an abundant species, the larvae of which are known as leatherjackets due to their texture. Craneflies lay their eggs in tussocky grass in late summer, so crops that follow grass can be very susceptible. It is these larvae that have the potential to ruin freshly planted grass and cereal crops, such as oats , wheat and barley by eating the roots and shoots. Seedlings can withstand attack better once they are established.