WTFIH @ Thriplow Farms, December 2017

It’s early November, and we’ve had our first, very light, frosts of the year. Ideally the temperature would drop consistently now, as although the warmth keeps our cover crops growing, and putting more carbon into the soil, it is not very helpful on other parts of the farm. The main reason for this is that insects can only live and move when the temperature is above a certain point, and at this time of year we’d really like them all to go to bed until spring. Our biggest problem are aphids, which can carry a nasty disease called Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus. Confusingly, this doesn’t just affect barley, it also causes problems in wheat as well. We don’t like having to spray any insecticides when we can help it, but in a warm autumn like this, there are so many aphids around for so long, that sometimes it becomes necessary. I’m hoping that the cold weather has arrived just in time, but it may well be that we have to spray a few of our earlier drilled wheat fields.

By now we have planted almost all of the crops that are due to go in this year, the one exception being a field of rye which is waiting for the sugar beet to be harvested before it can go into the ground. This is the first year we have tried growing rye, a grain which is increasing in popularity very quickly, and I’ve got high hopes that it can do well on our lighter, sandy land. Elsewhere on the farm, the wheat is all planted and looks good, and the oilseed rape with its companion plants has gone crazy in the warm, wet weather. The difference compared to this time last year is hard to believe, and the plants are now approaching waist high. Similarly the cover crops, mainly down towards the A505, have done very well, and there are several million sunflowers waiting to be picked – everyone is welcome to help themselves.

The wildflower margins that we planted in September and October seem to have established nicely now, although it is difficult to see what is a wildflower and what is a weed – it takes someone far cleverer than me to be able to pick out all the species in there. Please do remember though to not walk on them, it is a very critical time and they are easily damaged. Hopefully next summer we will have something to show for it all.

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