The farming column with Sam Walton

What an oilseed rape crop should look like.
What an oilseed rape crop should look like.

Crop failures do occur but thankfully not too often. My biggest field this year was drilled with Oil Seed Rape in mid August and got away to a flying start.

At one time I thought it might be too winter proud and then I noticed that a lot of the plants looked slightly different, a different shade of grey.

Come late Autumn it was obvious that these were wild radish, which can lie in the soil for years and then appear.

I had a few last time it was OSR but was able to spray them out and thought no more about it.

Suddenly the whole field was full of white flowers which meant it had to be sprayed. I was assured that the spray would work and the underlying rape would then grow away.

What we hadn’t bargained for was that the radish had smothered out most of the rape in three quarters of the field.

Winter time we looked and looked trying to decide if the crop would actually grow and if so would it be viable.

Mid March a decision had to be made so rather than keep odd patches of a half-decent crop I decided to plough the whole field and start again with spring barley.

So double the seed, fertiliiser, spray and contract bills. It may well have been cheaper to leave it and just fallow the poor parts but I can’t bear to see a field half cropped and looking a mess.

The sprayed, dead radish stalks were lying all over what rape was left and that made ploughing more difficult too.

Not sure what the barley will yield, no idea what price we will get and that made me wonder what would happen to people who travel to work every day, if they did not know what they would receive in payment! Whatever attracts us to farming, it certainly isn’t the returns.