Autumn to winter
We have drilled up everything we had hoped to get in and in terms of land work are currently finishing winter ploughing. Establishment has been pleasing for the majority of the crops, with some late winter wheat behind OSR suffering slug damage, which has reduced now with the colder weather.
Shallowly working land with the TopDown behind the combine has allowed multiple flushes of blackgrass to be sprayed off. We managed to get flushes before all min-tilled winter crops, this was helped by growing winter barley as the crop prior to OSR. However the importance of not over-working land destined to be late drilled has become apparent, particularly if we are intending to strip till. The use of the strip till Sumo DTS has given good establishment with noticeably reduced levels of blackgrass between the rows of crop, be this wheat or OSR. There are some people using band sprayers with this type of system, however this isn’t a route we have gone down, yet.
Our imported cattle FYM has been spread in front of the plough and we are hoping the winter barley will take full advantage. Next season’s muck has started to be brought in and stockpiled on pads ready for application next autumn.
As winter closes in the routine maintenance, care of the cattle, hedging, ditching and chasing pigeon work takes up most of our time. With all animals now housed, apart from eight heifers, the morning routine is much more predictable and time is available for battling blackgrass by improving field drainage.
When it comes to getting the best out of our land I saw an interesting example during a recent trip to Italy. I visited a 1.5ha smallholding on a 1-in-3 slope, fully employing six people, growing olives, lemons and producing mozzarella cheese, all without mechanical aides. By marketing the produce through the on-farm restaurant it provided a living for three families. I think that might be the best advert for sustainable intensification I have heard of!