THE weather over the last week has been rather erratic. The beginning of the week was damp and miserable, followed by a mixture of sunshine, cloud cover and sometimes gusty winds. The most noticeable feature has been the difference in the early morning temperatures. At 7.30am every morning temperatures have varied from a high of 15C to a low of 7C.

However, we have been able to plant some of our crops. I have been told that this is the first time in 40 years that we have started drilling in October, but until last week ground conditions had not been dry enough to allow final seed bed cultivation or planting.

Richard has been doing the drilling, often starting before breakfast and continuing after dark to try and plant as much of our arable area as possible before any more wet weather arrives. He has planted two varieties of winter wheat, Siskin and Graham. These two wheats are on the current recommended list, having shown many strengths. They have shown good resistance to mildew, yellow and brown rust, also septoria tritici, which is the most important wheat disease in the UK causing yield losses of 30 to 50 per cent. This strength is particularly useful in the western half of the country where risk tends to be highest. Septoria tritici is a fungus, which kills leaf cells on the growing plants. It shows as pale brown lesions, with small dark fungal bodies inside. Yield loss is caused by a reduction in green leaf area for photosynthesis. Both Siskin and Graham have good straw strength and are good performers.

We have planted one variety of winter barley, California. This barley is well suited to the main feed barley growing areas in the UK. It has demonstrated its high-yield potential in six years of National and Recommended List trials, performing well in the west, where most is grown. California has good disease resistance to rhyncosporium, an important disease in the west, also barley yellow mosaic virus (BaYMV).

BaYMV is a pathogenic plant virus, barley being the only susceptible host.The spores of BaYMV survive in the soil, enter through the root cells, where they multiply before spreading through the plant. Breeding resistance seems to be the only way to reduce the virus, which occurs worldwide. California produces good-quality feed grain and a high-yield of straw.

Following maize harvest Nathan used a topper to break up the unharvested lower part of the stalks, spreading the debris on the surface, to make it easier for Richard to incorporate into the soil with the plough. This is valuable organic material. The maize stubble fields have now been ploughed and the plough cleaned, greased and stored under cover until next year.

On recent walks around Manor Farm I have noticed a large number of crane flies. Crane flies, often called daddy-long-legs, are easy to identify due to their translucent wings and long legs. A characteristic feature of these insects is their fragility. They have slender bodies and their legs are easily shed if trapped or handled. The adults emerge from pupae in the soil, often in in grassy areas during autumn and spring. The adults do not usually feed and only live for a few days.

This is enough time for the females to mate and lay their eggs. Within 24 hours the eggs hatch into worm-like larvae, often called leather jackets due to their texture and colour. These larvae feed on the roots and crowns of plants in autumn and spring, making them a pest, particularly of germinating grass. After planting grass farmers and agronomists keep a careful eye on the crop as leather jackets can soon devour a field of young plants.