Posted on 30 April, 2017Comments (0)

Farm Notes

Farm Notes

When writing the Farm Diary last month the opening comments were about the wet ground conditions – how things have changed. The spring crops were planted in a 10 day period leading up to Easter finishing on the 13th April and now could do with an inch of rain although the seed was placed into moisture and is chitting. When looking at my 2016 notes I see that spring planting was completed on the 28th April so we are about 2 weeks ahead of last year. What is now required for a large harvest is regular rain (ideally about 1 inch per week) with warm but not hot days. The important factor for a good harvest is plenty of bright days, especially in May and June, for the plants to photosynthesise – grey gloomy days are not good for yields – the same as any gardeners.

Lambing finished at the end of March and was notable for the number of triplets produced – about half of the ewes. Lamb losses have been very low to date and they are growing well – dry conditions are much better than wet for lambs. One disappointment was having 6 barren ewes which as a percentage of a small flock this was a very high figure. The barren ewes will be sold at market in the next few weeks – no second chances especially as the ram was obviously working well as he produced so many triplets.

Spring work has now move onto completing the fertiliser application for this season and applying sprays to keep the plants free from disease. The plant medicines are very expensive and not applied without serious consideration but a healthy crop is essential to produce wholesome grains for consumption. A cereal plant will produce a new leaf about every 2 weeks at this time of year and the aim is to prevent disease entering the crop because it will quickly spread to new leaves and affect the quality and yield. A wheat fungicide programme in 2017 will cost about £90 to £110 per hectare (£36 to £45 per acre).

How big is an acre you may ask – well as a guide the field called Pepper Hill which is the third on the left down Tinkers Lane is 38 acres so will have a fungicide spend of about £1700.

The EU regulators review all pesticides that are approved for use on a 10 year cycle and glyphosate (sometimes known as Roundup) is currently passing through the process. There is a very strong lobby to revoke this products approval on the grounds that it is carcinogenic.

Any substance can be harmful, but glyphosate has a very safe profile and is rated as slightly toxic – a lethal dose for a human is estimated to be over 1000 kg! Vitamin D and nicotine are extremely toxic. Caffeine is very toxic, aspirin, alcohol and salt are moderately toxic.

Without the use of glyphosate ploughing would have to be widely adopted again which would burn huge amounts of fuel releasing 12 million tonnes of CO2. There are 53% more earthworms in soils that are not ploughed and organic matter is destroyed by ploughing.

Without glyphosate yields will drop because of poor weed control and poorer soil conditions resulting an area 3.4 times the size of London would be needed (546000 hectares) to produce the same amount of food.

The removal of glyphosate from the options for arable farming would be hugely detrimental to the environment, the cost of food, food safety because noxious weeds will not be controlled and will seriously reduce land productivity thus increasing pressure on food supplies.

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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