Rain at Last

I’m writing this on Saturday 6th June and at last we have some desperately needed rain, with more forecast over the next couple of days. We have had some very warm sunny days over the previous few weeks and everyone (understandably) has been remarking on the lovely weather. It all depends on how you define lovely !

For weeks now we have looked longingly at the weather forecasts predicting rain in two or three days time. Like a mirage in the desert the rain has disappeared as we got nearer to the expected time of precipitation. Meppershall often seems to miss rain coming from the south west when the clouds are diverted by the hills at Sharpenhoe towards Hitchin or Bedford. We recorded just 2.6 inches of rain between March 1st and May 31st.

Thanks to James Read for his letter in the June edition about the countryside. It’s always nice to be appreciated. As I’ve mentioned previously, although we don’t always get it right, we take our responsibility of stewardship very seriously whilst at the same time trying, and needing to run a successful and profitable business.

The wheat is now on ear and we need to keep that and the top flag leaf clear of disease as the grain sites in the ear fill during June and early July. The plants are a bit shorter than normal due to the dry conditions. Time will tell how the grain yield has been affected by the very dry spring.

The thin oilseed rape crop has flowered and set it’s seed pods. It will be interesting to see to what extent, if any, the lower number of plants growing have been able to compensate with more pods per plant.

July is a month of preparation for harvest. Grain stores that have been emptied through the winter period as grain is loaded onto lorries and taken to mills around the country, need to be thoroughly cleaned and fumigated against insect pests. Harvesting machinery has to be serviced (if that hasn’t already been done in the winter).

Rape doesn’t ripen evenly up the plant so it is normal practice to force that process either by spraying a dessicant on the crop, or cutting it with a swather and leaving it in rows on the stubble to die back for a week or two, before threshing those rows through the combine. This normally occurs over the last two weeks of July. Wheat isn’t usually ready until early to mid August though these dates can be earlier in a very dry year.

Mid June through early July can also be a time to plan for the new cropping season leading to harvest 2010, and prepare or update financial budgets. Finding time to get away can be a problem if there are children of school age in the family as school holidays are so often the busiest times on the farm. Once harvest starts in earnest, long working days will continue, weather permitting, right through into early October. After the crop is harvested, cultivations will start immediately to establish a good enough seed bed at which point the new crop can be drilled (planted). More on that nearer the time.

Are you fully metric in your thinking? We have to fill in forms and paperwork in metric using hectares as the unit of area. But like many farmers I suspect, I still talk and think in acres. Similarly with miles and stones. It’s my age I guess. I’ll probably just get away with it though!

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