Rhino: a month in the life of an Oil Seed Rape plant

Weather . . . or not

I’m sure I will have mentioned this before (if so I can’t recall when) but I often say to friends visiting from abroad that ‘we don’t have climate, only weather’: and so it has proved to be these last few weeks, especially the one straddling the end of September and beginning of October. Record October maximum temperatures were recorded in more than one location in the southeast on Saturday 1st. Unhappily I was visiting our nieces in Glasgow that weekend, where it rained solidly for 24 hours and the temperature was barely 15 degrees!

The cooler summer and late warmth has extended plants’ growing season and produced some peculiar responses. Did you see the picture of the apple branch with both fruit and blossom on it? In the circumstances I’m inclined to believe that was genuine and not the result of some mischeivous ‘photoshopping’.


Rhino; a month in the life of an Oil Seed Rape plant

I wrote this sentence last month, “We are continuing to grow just one crop each year in the OSR/Wheat/ Wheat rotation”. Several people asked if I had got that wrong, given that there was no mention of a different  crop in the third year. It just goes to show how, in any line of work, we get so used to certain phrases, initials or shortened names that we forget not everyone will understand what we are saying or writing.

In fact ,what I wrote is what happens: we still only grow Oil Seed Rape every third year as a break crop (which is a key element of any form of rotation that is intended to ‘break’ the disease cycle of monocropping). The other two crops in the 3 year rotation cycle we refer to as 1st and 2nd wheats.

Seedlings were just appearing a month ago. The crop is looking in an ideal condition today (6th October). Germination % was much better than usual with soil moisture available to get that process going quickly so that roots could travel down to deeper consistent moisture.

There is always a tension between drilling too early with the danger of the plants being too big and lush in the late autumn, when this would encourage phoma fungal infection that later spreads to the plant stem weakening it; and delayed drilling, when lack of moisture further delays germination so that the crop is small going into the winter and subject to pigeon attack (pigeons love rape and other brassicas when it’s cold and they all gang up into big flocks).

Mark’s target drilling rate is for 70 plants per square metre in order to end up with 50 – 60 plants growing. This year, with ideal germination, there are 70 – 75 plants growing, the extras coming from seed carried over from previous years!


Elsewhere on the Farm

Many of you will have seen that the in-field footpath from Meppershall to Shefford has now been surfaced with road planings: and some of you will already have used it. We are now in the process of setting up suitable signs to inform pedestrians of its existence.

You may wonder why it crosses the road in three places before connecting with the village pavement. We have avoided putting the path on the farm side where there is any slope away from the road, to avoid gravity disturbing the construction in years to come.

At the present time, the path is a permissive one on Polehanger land, with a partial grant towards construction from the local authority via the Parish Council. As things stand at the moment, it will be our intention to convert the path to a Public Footpath at an appropriate time in the future.

I would ask again that those walking on paths around the farm keep dogs under control and out of the adjoining crop. We had a fair bit of damage to wheat against footpaths at harvest time, and consequently lost grain where plants were broken on the ground.

I have again had to ‘intercept’ lads on motorbikes /quadbikes on a number of occasions recently, who to my face have said that they have the farmer’s permission! We do not give that to any bikers, other than when Mark uses his for field work or scaring pigeons. You may mention that if you come across them.


Interesting (or Challenging) Statistic(s)

There are13 million people in Madagascar whose lives are at risk because of locusts.

The price of good farmland in Romania is 2000 euros per hectare; in the UK it is around 15,000. Whilst this gives UK farmers a higher capital asset, it means that each year the rental equivalent to be covered to show a return on the land as an investment is much higher before any activity is undertaken.


50 Years Ago: Michael Foster’s Diary Extract from 1961

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13th November: I cut cabbage (to be carted to cows for feed) all morning and afternoon. Though drizzling and windy, I kept warm and enjoyed it!

23rd November: bought 2 acres adjoining Fowlers Farm; ‘dear’@ £150 per acre. (Current agricultural land price is £5,000 – 6,000 per acre)

30th November: 30 nets brussell sprouts (26lbs each?) picked; sold @ 12/6 each (12 shillings and six pence = 62.5p)[/listitems]


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