WTFIH @ Thriplow Farms, May 2017

Since this column last month work on the farm has moved on quickly, and we are totally up to date. This means that all of the spring drilling was completed over a three week period, starting with the peas, then the sugar beet, then a few more peas, then oats, and finally barley. There is always a balancing act when choosing the drilling date for crops, as generally you get higher yields from putting them in the ground earlier, but on the flip side, your weed control is worse. Because a large part of the reason for us growing crops like spring oats is because they control some types of weeds very well without having to resort to pesticides, we waited until the start of April to drill it, which is perhaps three to four weeks after the best timing for high yields. The return will come in later years however, when we can grow better crops with fewer inputs. We are in the lucky position of farming our own land, meaning it’s possible to not always be looking to extract the maximum amount of money out of every hectare every year – not everyone can do that, which is a shame.

Our sugar bet drilling, which I mentioned last month as we were using a new machine, went fairly well, although we realised after almost completing the first field that we had been putting in 30% less seed than we thought. In a crop like sugar beet, this will almost certainly reduce our yields significantly. The peas all went in nicely, and I am excited about a trial down near the A505 (the field is called HC 1), where we have mixed oats in with the pea seed, with the hope that they will suppress weeds naturally, and also provide a trellis for the pea plants to climb up – which will make harvesting them much easier.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper farming column without moaning a little bit about the weather. We are never happy for more than a week or so at a time, and now it’s beginning to get very dry. With any luck, Easter weekend will have been a washout – but there is no rain on the horizon. If you see anyone dancing in the fields, it’s probably a rain dance, so don’t call the police (unless they also have dogs chasing hares, in which case call 999!).

Peas & oats growing together

Peas & oats growing together

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