The year has turned out to be a strange one weather wise. Warmer, wetter and slightly sunnier than normal. Crops in general are looking very well with just a few farmer made errors showing up here and there. Winter barley is about 12 days earlier than normal and some has been sprayed with a low rate of glyphosate to even ripening, kill any green straw and remove weeds, if any, in the crop. After about two weeks of reasonable weather, the straw should be crisp and dry, with grain around 16% moisture content - this makes combining easier and efficient as the combine does not like green material.

 

Oilseed Rape is changing from green to the ripening brown colour; again this will be desiccated with glyphosate primarily to remove the moisture from the large stems. This will be carried out when the field is the colour of 'a hare's back' as my father described it, but more scientifically by opening some pods and checking the seed colour which can vary from black (ripe) in older pods to green (very unripe) in later flowering pods. Hopefully this will be combined at or below 12% moisture content.

Wild Bird Food Emerging Drilling Spring Barley Oilseed Rape in Full Flower

Winter wheat has finished flowering and is at the grain filling stage, but disease pressure, primarily from septoria, is still high so a decent fungicide was used at 'T3' to protect the ear and add a little top-up protection to the flag leaf.

The combine harvester has been serviced and a few minor repairs carried out, the grain drier has been fully serviced with several new parts on the burner and gas supply system. Replacement of the flight on the the screw conveyor (auger) which fills the drier have also been carried out as this handles every tonne of grain when it is wet, so has proportionately more wear. Various other workshop jobs maintaining machinery have also been done.

Refurbished gas burner for grain drier Sprayer pump overhaul Small repair on bale trailer

Rogueing wild oats is another essential jobat this time of year too. This involves walking every tramline in every cereal field and removing mainly wild oats and any other grass weeds classed as undesirable. Wild oats are closely related to domestic oats so are quite expensive to remove using a herbicide, so for low populations rogueing is carried out. If left unchecked they will soon multiply and compete with or smother subsequent cereal crops. Blackgrass is a very pernicious grassweed common in the southern parts of UK but occasionally some arrives with bought-in seed and it is essential to find these plants as one plant can produce thousands of seeds.

 

Applying a Mid Flower fungicide to OSR Showing the effect where no growth regulator or fungicide applied A Blackgrass plant found whilst rogueing.

After a mild winter it is pleasing to see wildlife on the farm having a good year. The barn owl population was severely reduced in the hard winter of 2010 but a air have returned to the farm, but I don't know where their nest is as a Kestrel has taking over their box and is successfully rearing four chicks. More swallows than ever have arrived back and the prime nesting spots are all taken, forcing one pair to nest in the porch at the farmhouse back door. They are quite used to us humans going in and out. When rogueing it was pleasing to see so many birds with are labelled as under threat, thriving so well here, As stated previously we have at least 5 species which were not known on the farm 30 years ago and this is attributed to my father's attitude to keeping hedges, 'wild spots', trees and waterways. Strangely, the hedges had never really been measured previously, so using a mapping program it was found that we conservatively have 12,000 metres of hedging. There is a 2metre strip left untouched either side, which means that there is already 4.8 ha (11.9 acres)devoted to wildlife habitat, before the other things we do to encourage wildlife.

The 1.5 ha field adjacent to the farm has been sown half with winter wild bird food and half 'wild flower meadow'. This is looking very healthy and is already attracting many butterfly and bee species, and the many other 'bugs' which birds and small mammals enjoy.

Day old Grey Partridges Kestrel chicks A nest of Swallows.

We purchased 50 day old grey partirdges and these are being reared to be released later in the season. We do not shoot the farm and have several coveys already but felt that a few extra would not go wrong even if they wander off to my neighbours.

This is the time of year when many trial sites have open days and companies show their latest crop varieties or chemicals. It is difficult keeping track as so many new and in many cases inferior varieties appear and disappear every year. This makes planning a rotation just that bit more difficult.

Defra, RPA and Natural England (Why have one government department when three cost more than three times the price) are trying to implement the latest round of changes from the EU. They keep promising information so that farmers can plan for this year and the next few, but none is forthcoming and it is the normal bureaucratic mess. The new measures are called 'greening' - the last time I looked about 99% of this farm was already green.