Video showing 2ft deep cracks in the tramline of one of our fields!
Missing in Action: A Spring’s Worth of Rain!
Well, it is starting to become a little worrying. Dad said that the new moon came in today, meaning today’s weather has set the tone for the next 30 days!! This spring is becoming the driest on record with no worthwhile rain being recorded in the past 3 months. On our farm at Westhorpe, we have only had 11mm of rain evaporate out of our rain gauge in that time and even less has been recorded at the Great Ashfield farm.
So what does this drought mean for the farm? Well, all the crops are under stress. They want to be growing and do what plants do best in the lovely sun – photosynthesising. However, the lack of moisture in the soil has meant that they have reduced their growing activity and have become weak and vulnerable to pest and disease attacks. The crops on what we call ‘heavy land’, which is soil that has a predominately clay structure, are faring better than the sand based ‘lighter soils’ you find in some areas of our farm but even more over on the coast of Suffolk. The clay has the ability to lock in moisture and hold it for longer periods of time. We can dig down about 15cm and see some moisture but not anything of real substance, whereas on the lighter soil you would find no moisture at all until you got bored of digging! This is why the irrigators are pumping vast amounts of water onto the high value crops such as onions and potatoes just to keep them alive. I have even heard down the wilting grape vine that some farmers have been irrigating wheat and barley crops to keep them going; desperate times call for desperate measures. I joke with my mates in more normal times about not having the problem of irrigation: pumps breaking down, burst pipes, moving lines etc. but at times like these, at least they have the ability to put water on some of their land and make a crop look better, where we are truly at the mercy of the rain gods!
|Weaker late drilled wheat crop|
|Stronger early drilled wheat crop|
We also have the added headache of getting the necessary Nitrogen plant food into the soil for uptake by the roots. This Nitrogen fertiliser is spread in granular form and sits on the soil surface to be taken into the soil when it rains. If we apply it and there is no moisture the expensive nitrogen is left in the open and it breaks down slowly and evaporates, with only a reduced amount actually working its way into the soil and plant when it is needed. However, one plus point for lack of rain is that the disease pressure is reduced. Diseases like Mildews, Rusts and the main disease in the
, Septoria, prefer damp, moist conditions in order to take hold in the crop on the leaves. Rain droplets act as the transporters of disease when the water hits the leaf and splashes the disease spores from leaf to leaf. No rain means no disease spread and so a robust fungicide program will combat any possible outbreaks quickly before they get out of control. UK