I am writing this in the last days of February. After a few cold, grey ones, today is a beautiful spring day; warm and bright. Blossom is breaking out, daffodils are about to, and there is once again the prospect of longer, brighter days ahead. (On reviewing this article on the 28th February the weather has returned to type!)
Oakley: a month in the life of a wheat plant
As you know, we are not growing any Oil Seed Rape this year, which will soon be growing upwards apace on neighbouring farms as soil and air temperatures rise.
Oakley will take a bit more time to fully wake up and get going; but get going it will during March. A close eye will be kept on it by regular field walking to monitor growth stages, weed population and control, and disease thresholds.
Nitrogen applications will be tailored to the crops optimal nutrient requirements and will be spread in split doses with one eye on growth stage and the other on the weather. We need rainless and still(ish) days to apply the fertilizer, but rain following soon after to dissolve the granules so that they can soak into the soil and be taken up by Oakley’s root system. Last year, when we had such a very dry spring, much of the April applied nitrogen lay on the soil surface unavailable to the crop at the time it was most needed.
Elsewhere on the Farm
Skylark plots are one of the options we implement in our Entry Level Scheme (ELS). These are uncropped rectangles approximately 6m x 10m left in the field to give bare earth for nesting sites. Usually we can arrange for the plots to be seedless when the rest of the crop is being drilled; occasionally, as in this year, they have to be sprayed out now before the crop gets going. I hope the increase in skylark numbers that we have seen recently will continue.
Higher Level Scheme
Last month I wrote about applying to upgrade our existing E L S membership to the Higher Level Scheme. This would involve a 10 year commitment on our part and we would receive annual payments to take out a further 15% or so of our cropping area and put into various wildlife enhancing and an archaeological protection options. With wheat at £100 per tonne, which it was when we started drawing up our application, this made both good commercial and environmental sense. With wheat currently fluctuating at around £180 tonne this is not so commercially viable. If we farmed 1000 acres plus then this would be less of an issue.
More on this next issue.
Interesting Statistic of the Month
From a farming periodical: “The World Food Programme recently bought 1.25 billion US Dollars worth of food. Food price rises across the globe will drive a further 44million people into poverty in developing countries . . . .
. . . . However, in contrast to the 2008 spike in world grain and food prices which brought civil unrest in many poorer countries, better harvests in African countries in 2010 have kept prices stable there; and global rice price rises have been moderate and the outlook for the rice market looks stable, which is of course significant for the large populations of the far East and the Indian subcontinent.”
By the time you read this we may be clearer about the effects of the current political instability in the Middle East and North Africa
Warm off the Press
The plans to create a ‘super dairy’ at Nocton in Lincolnshire, have been withdrawn after The Environment Agency expressed concerns about the lack of information about the risks posed to the underground aquifer beneath the site. This excused the local council from having to read through ‘in excess of 14,000 submissions’ to the proposed enquiry.
My feeling is that there will be further applications to build large dairy units and we will see more than one before too long. Otherwise milk production in this country will become a niche business. Vociferous opposition will remain.
60 Years Ago
During the 1960’s and ‘70’s my father kept detailed diary accounts of what happened each day on the farm and who did what. I have been looking back to 1961 and will make a summary of the entries for the corresponding month 60 years ago as 2011 goes by.
March 7th : Brussell Sprout picking finishes.
March 14th : Brussell stalks chopped up by rotovator and spring barley drilled as soon as conditions allowed and seed bed created.
March 15th : Brussell seed drilled by hand in a small nursery bed. (Plants to be transplanted in June as a rotation crop for picking the following winter.)
March 18th : Very warm and sunny; 72 degrees (Farenheit!)
March 20th : Wages raised to £8 for a 45 hour week and Saturday work stopped at 11am.
March 30th : Cows out to grass for first time this year in daytime only. Total daily milk rises from 162 to 180 gallons but “cows very loose”![/listitems]