WTFIH @ Thriplow Farms, August & September 2017

Sure enough, after the very welcome rain, the weather turned super dry again in June, and even worse, it was incredibly hot. This caused us quite a big problem, as the plants we grow are all “cool season” grasses and broad leaves. This means that they work best in our normally mild climate, and the grasses will cease to grow as well any time they go above 27℃. We only had a few days when the air temperature went above this, but in the bright sun the leaves were getting up to almost 40℃ – obviously a problem. All of these cool season grasses are what is known as C3 plants, which refers to the type of photosynthesis they use to capture sunlight. If we were growing maize, which is a C4 plant, then it would have been great news, as these are tropical, or “warm season” grasses, which thrive as the temperature goes up – but they do not like our more normal conditions as much. Where I really liked the hot weather was for making hay, which we can do now that there are no cattle on the farm. I felt sorry for the man who came to make the small bales, as he had old tractors with no air conditioning, which must have been like working in a greenhouse. He also had quite a few breakdowns, so was in and out all day, but finally we ended up with almost 1400 bales of very nice meadow hay (which are available to a good home!).

In a normal year harvest tends to start in the middle or end of July, so I was slightly embarrassed to be on holiday at the beginning of the month when I received a text message saying that our barley was being harvested. The red face was short lived, as it turned out to be a lot less dusty and sweaty when you’re 3,000 miles away, but I suppose I should help out with the remaining fields now that I am back at home. We had a pleasing result, with a yield of over 9 tonnes per hectare, some 30% higher than last year. It is an encouraging start, but as barley is so much earlier than other crops, it possibly did not get so affected by the spring drought. It certainly will not be a late harvest this year, with several different crops all vying to be the next to be combined; it could be oilseed rape, wheat, or possibly even peas. Whichever one, we will have it all done for the next column, so you can find out what happened then.

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