The last day of February and our short foretaste of summer is ending. I know I have donned my shorts several times in the past during the month of March. However in the U.K. this is most definitely the only time I have put them on in February since I was at primary school. With the thorn and cherry blossom fully out it is all somewhat surreal, particularly the highest temperatures coinciding with last year’s beast from the east. It is important to realise that this is weather and not climate change. However, the frequency and intensity of these events may well be increasing as a result of global warming. Still we have made the best of it and pushed on with drilling some of the spring cereals and putting nitrogen and sulphur on the winter crops.
My trials with cover crops preceding spring cereals have yielded some useful information in terms of management. The drought like conditions in August and September did have an impact on my establishment methods with the direct drilling working well on the light ground. This year I have also looked at spray timing for desiccation, with a month before and a day prior to drilling. It makes little difference as to how the 750A drill performs and soil moisture is going to be different every year. My main interest is to see what effect this has on weed burden in the next crop and also possible fertiliser requirements. Whilst I still can’t make cover crops stack up economically, it is definitely worth pursuing from a soil point of view and a possible inclusion in any new environmental schemes which might come in the future.
On the subject of soils, I have just buried some tea bags in one of my spring crops following a cover crop and also in a winter wheat field following FYM and a maize crop. This is part of a crowd sourcing experiment undertaken by members of BASF Real Results Farmers. 2 types of tea bags have been buried at each location one contains green tea which decomposes slowly so it’s the control. The red tea decomposes more quickly so should therefore give us a comparison on rates when we dig them up in 90 days time. This decomposition rate is a simple way to measure how many micro organisms there are in the soil helping to break down organic matter to release nutrients for growing plants. I will keep you posted.