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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Crop Update

As Christmas lunch is around the corner seasonal vegetable producers are having a real hard time keeping up with demand. Carrots, parsnips, swede and other root vegetables are locked in the ground by our current soil conditions of permafrost.   They are starting to lift them now so hopefully we can all enjoy the honey glazed roasted carrots and parsnips with our turkey.
So what is this snow and permafrost doing to our crop on the farm? Our soil type is a heavy clay based structure that holds water and becomes waterlogged easily at this time of year. This is why my late Grandfather Eric decided that Sugar beet was not the best crop to grow on our soil. The last crop of Sugar beet was grown in 1968 a very wet year and the machinery could not move in the mud. In the end it was hand picked and loaded onto lorries by gypsies in return we paid them in fire wood! This opened up a slot in our crop rotation and we decided to start growing grass seed.
The grass seed crops in the ground currently have been grazed by the sheep, they have gone over all the crops grazing the plants down to their crowns so come the spring as it warms up the plants will send out new strong tillers. These will hopefully carry good amounts of seed and hopefully produce large amounts of good hay in the summer. The Sheep have now left the farm so that is one less thing to worry about over Christmas.
The winter wheat crop is up and looking strong, we started drill early so that the establishment was good. We have rolled and got 80% of the crop sprayed with our pre and post emergence herbicides to combat the black grass. This cold air is also doing us a favour to kill off any pests like aphids that transmit plant diseases such at Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) and slugs that strip the young plants vegetation. Once the climate starts to warm up and the sun comes out the wheat will quickly move on and so will the weeds. We will catch up with the remaining herbicides and then nutrients will be applied to keep the plant health and green so that it can grow strong ready for the summer.
The Oil seed rape is just being hammered by the constant pressure of pigeons. Pigeons flock up at this time of year and once they have exhausted all other food such as acorns they descend on the oil seed rape crops in vast numbers. They eat the fresh leaves and they can ruin a crop, this is why it is important to get the crop up and established year in the year. We drilled our crops on the 18th and 26th of August and they have looked well ever since, however the pigeon damage in places is becoming a problem. To combat the pigeons we hang rope bangers that keep them moving. We do not use the anti-social gas bangers that echo around the countryside on a 20min cycle. Some times once the pigeons find a field it is very hard to move them on and so shooting them is the only way to really remove them. However pigeon shoot is an art, watching flight lines, positioning the hide correctly, setting out the decoys right with the wind, but it is a great days sport if you get it right! Pigeon shooters are always welcome if anyone does want a day shooting pigeons please get in touch ASAP!!  
The crops that are benefitting the most from this weather are the crops we have not drilled yet. This freezing and thawing is doing great things for the soil that is left on the plough. The land ready for the spring crops has been ploughed and had a deep cultivator pulled through it, this has created cracks in the clods which have filled up with water and as it freezes the ice expands the crack, as it thaws it retracts and the clay soil clods weaken and breaks down. This will make the seed bed come the spring very easy to prepare for the grass seed, spring oats and spring beans we are due to drill come April. Hopefully this will save us a pass with the crawler before drilling depending on how consolidated the seed bed is before drilling.
Well this is a little update on how the crops are fairing in this weather once spring comes we will keep you informed on what we are up to on the fields and around the farm. Have a Merry Christmas and look out for our next post soon. BWB  

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