We farm some very variable soil types, including areas of gravel. This photo of a field of winter wheat was taken on the 1st June, with large areas dying off due to lack of moisture and the high temperatures. It’s not an uncommon sight in late June or early July, but is pretty soul destroying at this time. With only 4mm of rain in May and that was the first few days of the month, it has just run out of steam. All we can hope for now is a quick and cheap harvest to try and keep costs to a minimum. I have already taken the decision to stop the extra person coming to help at harvest so we have 1 less wage to pay. If the three of us can’t manage this year with a lot less wheat in the ground and much lower yields, then we never will.
This is a biomass image of the same field as in the photo above. The red areas are thin and dying, whereas the green is a healthy crop. I took the photo standing in the crop just south of the wood in the middle and looking east. It’s not too difficult to see where the gravel is! To borrow a phrase, is this the new normal? Do we need to find a way to deal with more weather extremes? If global warming is effecting a temperate climate like ours, what is happening in normally much drier regions of the world? The irony of the wet winter was not lost on me the other day, when I read that our local water company was recommending that we used less water due to the drought. Maybe less profit sharing and more money invested in infrastructure such as reservoirs might need to be considered.
Winter linseed, which had looked a picture, is now showing lots of dead flowers. My initial thought was drought stress. However, as I walked across more and more fields this was mostly in the low lying areas often with the more moisture retentive soils. So I came to the conclusion it had been the 2 nights of frosts we had a couple of weeks ago. This was confirmed when I saw it starting to flower again in these same areas. It could be a late harvest, but let’s hope the flowers do produce some seed heads otherwise this is another crop which will fail to deliver.
This really is the season that just keeps on giving us grief.
Stop press: on Wednesday and Thursday of this week we got 2mm of rain, not all in one go, let’s not get too greedy. Rather a case of too little too late.