Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Dampened Enthusiasm

I think we might have been in this situation before! Rain that was not completely forecast at the weekend has arrived stopping the progress we made at the weekend. We managed an hour combining yesterday afternoon before rain arrived and more rain fell this morning, heavy enough to stop us for the day (I expect).
There are a few tidy-up jobs that will be done today as field work has also stopped.
A bearing to change on the hedge cutter before that is pressed into service. We can't cut any hedges until after the 31st July due to the cross compliance requirements. We would have taken a few wet days like this as an opportunity to get a few hedges trimmed up in the past.
There is also a new chopper belt tensioner that needs to be replaced on the combine. Hopefully when the sun does put in an appearance we should be ready to press on with our oilseed rape harvest.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Combine Rolling After False Start

Back to some proper Farming! We actually started combining on Monday on some Trick Winter barley, seed for Syngenta, which I would definitely grow again. On some very sandy light land, the feed barley topped out at 9.45t/ha (on 11.75ha) which is a great yield considering the year. Order your seed now, there's not that much going around this year!

Today saw the start of the OSR (Oilseed Rape)harvest, here Tim is cutting the first field of Excalibur on some of our lightest land. Moisture started of at 14% but by the time the headland was off it was down to 10%, quite acceptable. Not commenting on the yield yet as I will wait for the yield mapping data to come from the combine but early indications (i.e. me driving at lunchtime) look quite good but very early days so don't quote me on that!

Ragwort Worries

It's that time of year again when the yellow peril rears its pretty head above the grass and other weeds. Ragwort, poisonous to livestock when dead/dried, is one of the major 'non tolerable' weeds found around farms and even more readily seen on our roadside verges and central reservations.
It's an annual problem that can only really be controlled by digging/pulling every year. This year we have started early following the combine around pulling the few sprigs from the hedge bottoms and stewardship margins. An on going battle for us made even more frustrating when I see it seeding merrily along the A46 at the bottom of the farm. Wake up local councils and get it sorted out or with hard cuts coming in local budgets will it just fall of the bottom of the priority lists?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Beasts in the Barley

Just for the records I also found a whole lot of ladybirds and larvae in the Coors Malting Spring Barley this afternoon. Even though it was raining the larvae were hard at work searching for their supper. On the menu tonight (I think) were grain aphids. There were a few small populations, not enough to worry about spraying them, so the beneficials will be able to control them for the next couple of weeks prior to harvest.
Interestingly the malting barley has not received any type of insecticide at all through the growing season but the wild bird seed mixture has received 3! It just goes to show that correct applications, at the correct timing, of the correct products can control the nasty (damage causing) insects whilst allowing the good ones (beneficials) to thrive.

Ladybird Bonanza

I popped in and had a look at the wild bird food mixtures that we planted in April to see how they were progressing and what a surprise I had.
Many of the plants that were growing, this is fat hen, (actually a weed), but good feed value never-the-less are hosting the largest populations of mealy cabbage aphids I have seen in a long time.

Feeding on these aphids are many hundreds of ladybirds. Here is a ladybird in it's larvae stage fattening up on the aphids.

This shot is showing three adult ladybirds feeding on some black bean aphids on a Quinoa plant. There was also more hoverflies and other beneficials than I could count.
Many of the plants have seeded well and should provide the most fantastic source of seeds during the coming winter months.
In the fore ground of this picture is some fodder radish that has some very large seed pods that will hold their seed well into the winter providing a much later seed source.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Litter Louts - No Respect!

This was the depressing scene that I found tonight in one of our farm gateways. The field is not open to the public and there is no public footpath within the field. The rubbish was beer bottles and cans, plastic food containers and even a pair of broken glasses. Not only was the rubbish left which in itself is wrong but they had also had a fire at the same place. With the very dry vegetation and fields of crops adjacent to this field who knows what may have happened. This problem is becoming more of an issue on Bredon Hill and it is a real shame that this area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) is being treated this way by a ignorant few, spoiling it for the many people who appreciate it's magnetic charm. If you see or suspect this kind of activity happening please, please do not hesitate to contact me and let me know.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

More Bee Food

Here is another small area that we have planted with a duel purpose. As well as providing a great source of pollen and nectar, as well as overwintered bird seed (it's intended target) it will also enhance the shoot area as it forms part of a game cover.
The mixture contains; phacaelia, triticale, oats, red and white millet and is targeting tree sparrows.
At the top of this area is a block of maize, both sections are about 0.4Ha in total.

Again in the warm sunshine insects were everywhere, feeding on the nectar produced by the flowers. Here a honey bee is just about to land on a phacaelia flower for lunch.

Millbank Trials

The field photographed is hosting our trial areas for wild bird seeds as part of the impending HLS scheme. It was planted in April with a wide variety of plants aimed at producing wild bird feed through the winter. the mix included mustard, fodder radish, kale, linseed, sunflowers, millet and we added some spring barley just for good measure.
Despite the dry summer the crop got off to a great start, fending off most of the pigeons eyeing up the juicy seedlings, mainly the sunflowers and kale. The flee beetles and the pollen beetles also had a go but a timely insecticide brought them to a swift end. What has amazed me is the diverse insect life that is benefiting from the plants in flower. I walked into the crop this morning to find bumblebees, honey bees, butterflies, spiders, ladybirds, hoverflies and many other hungry beasties all feasting on the pollen. I was really pleased about this, an uncalculated but not unsurprising benefit.
We need more farmers to take up these options as part of Campaign for the Farmed Environment, it wasn't that expensive to establish, it might last two years, with the kale surviving, and the benefits to general farm biodiversity will be enormous.