As usual, our lives are dominated by the weather. This time it’s rain, or the lack of it. Since a good rain in the middle of July, it’s been really very dry for us here. That was great news for harvest, but after that there are several reasons we really like plants to be able to grow away quickly. Firstly we have planted lots of cover crops around the farm, which should be busy capturing carbon out of the air and putting it into the soil. This helps improve our soil quality, and, very minutely, air quality too. It also stops other nutrients being washed away into the ground water, so they can be used by next spring’s crops. Secondly, we planted 150 hectares of oilseed rape in August, and this needs good conditions to grow quicker than the pests can eat them. Finally, we would really like any weed seeds that grew in last year’s crops to germinate and grow, so that we can kill them off before planting again with wheat, barley or beans this autumn. So all in all, this very dry weather now does not help us a lot.
Luckily, the farming system we use, eliminating soil movement, keeps in as much moisture as possible. The oilseed rape had a tricky start, but hopefully we over the first hurdles now – although we did lose one entire field to slugs and flea beetles. The cover crops are much worse off, and it may be that we cannot have any sheep here over the winter, as there is just not enough food to make it worthwhile. Speaking of livestock, at the end of October the 77 young cattle we have had all summer will be moving to a different home. They had a slow start with the cold spring, but in the second half of the year have done really well; some of them have grown at over 1kg per day. This month’s main job will be planting the wheat, which has been delayed due to the dry conditions – but it should all be in by November, if everything goes smoothly.