JH Dosson & Partners, Crossfields Farm, Somerset.
Winter wheat, winter barley, OSR, other crops.
About the farmer
David’s grandfather came to the farm in 1904 and it has been in the family ever since. David returned to the family farm, after his A levels, following the death of his father although there was never any doubt that he would return and build his life here.
David and his brother, who he farms in partnership with, are most interested in the mechanical side of farming, rather than livestock and so the farm is purely arable at present, although historically the farm used to finish cattle.
About the farm
The farm is typical for the region, with gently rolling land and soil which David describes as “fairly friendly medium loam which overlies heavier clay. It is not necessarily the highest yielding soil but it is reasonable to work with, it is relatively easy to make a seedbed and you can grow a different range of crops on it.”
The farm gets 867mm rain a year and this coupled with a slowly permeable subsoil means it can lie wet in the winter. The whole farm is ploughable, if required. Winter wheat is typically grown after winter oilseed rape so it would be established with a Sumo Trio, followed by a Vaderstad Rapid drill (the non-ploughing route) with rollers used as required.
Technology wise, David said, “We have GPS, with auto trac and yield mapping in the combine and GPS switching on the fertiliser spreader. We haven’t taken it too much further at the moment but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t keeping our eye on developments.”
There is an outlying block of land with some black-grass, that grew wheat continuously for many years. David said, “We could manage this while black-grass sprays worked but it wasn’t too long before they weren’t worth applying. We put this block into spring barley for two years and now we have winter oilseed rape drilled, all established by shallow cultivation. It will go back into wheat this year. A double spring barley followed by oilseed rape appears to have made a huge difference but we will keep things under review.”
All the wheat grown is for feed, as the farm is in a livestock area, and can achieve good average yields partly due to the moisture retentive soils in the area. “We do however seem to suffer from variability in yield from within fields, however variable rate seeding/application may tidy this up in the future.”
For David, farming is not all about the bottom line, there is more to it than that. It is a family farm, and it’s about maintaining and improving, not only yields but soils too because that’s the biggest enabler of yield. Having a choice of drilling systems has helped them achieve this.
Cultivation and drilling approach
We have a range of soil types, mainly medium loam but a patch of heavy clay near the river. The farm also does contract work which has led to having two approaches:
1) A power harrow combination followed by a combination drill. David tends to plough in front of barley (partly rotational and to control volunteers – does not like volunteer wheat in barley because it ripens later). Used to plough about a third of the farm a year.
2) The rest is established with a Sumo trio sub soiler tines and followed by a Vaderstad Rapide.
David starts the season with the Rapide and then a power harrow, then the contract work sees them through.
The rotation has been wheat/barley/rape, although David says this is going to have to change now. The farm used to grow oats for 40-50 years, but grass-weed control has meant oats have had to be to dropped. David added, “With all the problems with OSR, we’re probably going to have to stretch to a five-year rotation with winter or spring beans in there, although prices aren’t good”.
Biggest agronomic challenges
David’s biggest agronomic challenge is black-grass. The rotation and use of sprays just about keeps on top of it. David said, “We’re roguing as much as time allows. The possible explosion of black-grass worries me.”
What do they most value about Real Results?
“There is nothing better than seeing results on your own farm, especially split field trials. You can immediately see any improvements and now that combines have yield mapping, you can see any advantages.”