Last entry complained that things were too wet, now 50 days later the consensus is that we need some rain! April was a very cold, dry but sunny month which is generally good for crops allowing them to develop slowly. Now into May ground is very dry and crops on lighter (sandy, well drained) land in the area are starting to show signs of stress. This farm is on heavier (clayey, not so free draining) land and has reserves at the moment. The only issue currently is that some spring barley sown on 6th April has not yet germinated in places and this will lead to a very uneven crop later in the season. This was sown when the subsoil was still very wet but the top layer subsequently dried out completely in spite of the seedbed being rolled slowly and carefully.
To date the Oilseed Rape(Canola) is in full flower and has been flowering for over a month due to the cool weather. Fertiliser and fungicides are complete so the next job will be pre-harvest dessication.
Winter barley has received all it's fertiliser and only requires one more fungicide when the ears have fully emerged in about a week or so. Wheat is, in general, looking well and has had about 80% of Nitrogen fertiliser and one fungicide plus two growth regulators. The diseases trgeted are Septoria which is a perennial problem and yellow rust which is becoming more common in newer varieties. Two more fungicides are to be applied, one when the 'flag leaf' is fully emerged and another when the ear is visible. The 'ear spray' is to protect grain quality and prevent 'Mycotoxins' caused by certain fungi being present on the grain.
Normal routine jobs have been going on such as fence repair and 'mucking out' cattle sheds. I have a neighbour who has a lot of livestock and relatively little land which is all down to grass. He needs a large amount of barley and wheat straw for feeding and bedding through the winter so he bales my straw at harvest and through the winter and spring I get the 'muck' back. Normally there is in the region of 700-900 tonnes which allows me to apply 50t/ha (20 t/acre) to about 16 ha (40 acre) each year. Depending on the field where the 'midden' (heap) is located, there are generally five days for two tractors/trailers hauling away. In the autumn there are generally 3 long days spreading with a hired spreader. The work and expense is well worth it in terms of adding organic matter to the soil and the effects of manure can be seen for several years after application.
After the mild winter it is wonderful to see how many more animals and birds are present this spring. It is many years since I saw as many hedgehogs at this time of year and they all appear to be in good health. This one emerged from hibernation in some straw bales and weighed in at 761 grammes - not to bad when it is recommended that they should be at least 600g going into hibernation. This one was given a dish of puppy food and went on his way afterwards. At the end of April a surprise flush of Red Campion in the 2016 sown pollinator plots appeared, bringing a bit of colour.There is good ground cover in the plots with a wide variety of plants: alsike clover, bird's-foot trefoil, common vetch, fenugreek, lucerne, phacelia, red campion, red clover, sainfoin, sweet clover, black knapweed and yellow trefoil, so I am looking forward to later in the year. It is adjacent to my experimant with a wild flower meadow. This, whilst popular with wildlife has become mainly grass and Yarrow. This will be ploughed in the autumn and wild bird food sown in it's place. The Kestrels have returned to their usual nestbox and currently have four chicks from 5 eggs laid. They all seem to be growing well.
A slightly less welcome surprise was to find a settee on the verge of our lane. Fly Tipping is becoming more and more common as councils make difficult for people to dispose of such items. This does seem couterproductive as council employees have to make a trip to pick up the rubbish. Our local 'recycling' centre can be very unhelpful on occasion even when it is obvious the waste is 'household'.