Posted on 30 July, 2018Comments (0)

Farm News

Farm News

When I wrote for the Villager 4 weeks ago my weather request was for long days of bright light and ½ inch of rain every week and certainly no extremely hot temperatures or strong sunlight. My hopes of a weather pattern to maximise the yield potential of the crops have been disappointed in a big way.
Never mind the crops – the weather has been stunning with great warmth. Will the high temperatures and lack of rainfall affect the crop yields? Yes but how much remains to be seen. The first fields have been cut in the area but it is too early to draw any conclusions on yield trends yet but it is true that usually the price per tonne rises if the harvest is smaller so there is a compensating effect.

One of the benefits of the warm weather has been the way nature has responded. There have been huge numbers of insects, butterflies, moths and birds enjoying the warmth and it is great to see the natural world thriving. The grey and damp summers of recent years have reduced hatches etc. Some times when out walking it has been necessary to breathe through the nose only otherwise insects and bugs enter the mouth – there are so many of them. Butterflies seem to be competing for air space – not just Cabbage Whites but all sorts of colours and sizes. In the evening bats take over from the whirling Swifts, Swallows and House Martins as the light fades.

Ragwort is a noxious weed with pretty yellow flowers that is poisonous to many grazing animals. In the last week I have found some Ragwort plants covered in up to 50 Cinnabar caterpillars which have yellow and black rings the length of their body. They devour the Ragwort foliage thus reducing its ability to flourish but not enough to kill it. The caterpillars store the poison from the Ragwort and still contain the poison when they develop into moths – it is apparently foul tasting and deters birds and other predators from eating the Cinnabar. The Cinnabar moth is black with 2 red spots and 2 red stripes on each wing. The females can lay up to 300 eggs each and feed from July to September. They can also become cannibalistic!

After the last really hot summer in 1976 we had a very wet autumn and a long cold winter – let us hope that this is not repeated.

Julian Lewis

[Please note that this message is not posted on behalf of Bentworth Parish Council and does not necessarily reflect the Parish Council’s policy]

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