Farmers are never happy! First it’s too wet then it’s too dry. Actually, it is just really good to be doing something at long last. Soils that a few days ago were soaking wet are rapidly drying out and turning to concrete. We all knew that when it stopped raining it was odds on things would swing in the other direction. The sun and the wind from the east had been my hope of salvation throughout the wet winter, just a shame it came too late in the second half of March. Still, we are pressing on as fast as we can establishing spring cereals. By accident, we have quite a nice comparison of three adjacent fields; one cultivated in September, another last weekend and the one in the photo above which had a cover crop. Not a very good crop as the dry September lead to poor establishment.
We direct drilled a mix of phacelia and vetch. We have been playing with various mixes for the last few years as I want plants to act as cultivators. The phacelia makes a great job of surface cultivation with its myriad of fine roots. The vetch was included in an attempt to manufacturer some nitrogen. I am not sure it has been very successful as the pigeons took a fancy to it. This coming year’s attempt will see a phacelia, linseed and oilseed radish mix to concentrate on the cultivation effect, sown after harvest. Whatever mix I use has to be a maximum spend of £30/ha or I might just as well use a shallow cultivator for the same cost. We have RTK GPS on our drill tractor which gives us near centimetre accuracy. This allows us to slot the seed into the same drill run as the previous crop, so each successive crop uses the root channels of the previous plants. The area between the drill rows is left undisturbed and the chopped straw forms a mulch which helps to inhibit weed growth. That’s my theory anyway and it seems to work. We have one block where we started doing this in 2017. It’s now on its 4th set of consecutive plants all occupying the same slot in turn. Despite the awful conditions the wheat was sown into this autumn, that is one of the best looking areas at the moment.
When the wind blows from an easterly quarter the aircraft flying into Heathrow circle over our farm on their approach to land. There were still quite a few at the weekend but the last 2 days have been very quiet. As a result the air seems so much cleaner. The lockdown for Covid-19 has also reduced the traffic flying up and down our lanes, but I have never seen so many people out walking. Despite a social media plea to the locals to stick to the footpaths, some folk just feel they can take their one piece of exercise where ever they fancy. Maybe the forecasted cold snap at the weekend will persuade them to self isolate at home. British Summertime starts on Sunday, which must be why it’s going colder.