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Hello MyFarmers – we’re on Cambridge Road Farm. We’ve just interrupted Farmer Morris’
coffee break; he’s busy fertilising all the fields, but Farmer Morris what are you
up to on Cambridge Road Farm?
Well we’ve sort of got caught a bit. Last time we were here spreading fertiliser when
you came down – that was the 31st March – since then it’s never stopped raining
and we need to get the last two dressings on – these should have been split dressings
but this will go on now as one dressing and it’s quite a lot so it means lots of trips
back and forth to the farm to fill up and go out again. But it’s essential – it
will help us get the yield that we need and hopefully, if we’ve got the timing right,
the quality premium for the milling wheat. It’s all looking well – they’re nice
and green and you can see from the tyres on the tractor – it’s wet, incredibly wet.
It’s not rained here since Saturday morning and it’s drying up and ideally I’d probably
leave it another day but because it’s drying up we’ve got a weather window and we want
to start silaging tomorrow so tomorrow morning Albert will go rowing; I’ll come down and
finish this off and then this tractor will be needed then on the rowing up and spreading
out and getting ready for the bailer. So it’s all go this week – we’ve gone from not
‘twiddling our thumbs’ but not having a lot to do to being under pressure again
just in the 24 hours of change of weather. So it’s good fun. But while you’re here
go out and have a look at the wheat – this is the conventional wheat down here and it’s
looking pretty good – I’m really pleased with it. It’s greened up – the water’s
helped hugely and that fertiliser we put on – it’s ready for some more now but it’s
all so clean as it’s coming up. There’s a little bit of black grass which our agronomist
is working on and improving our plants for next year; and then go and have a look at
Pond Field as a contrast – Pond Field sadly looks like a field of *** at the moment.
There’s so much charlock in there it’s yellow, which I am worried about – it is
going to affect yield. Probably more importantly it’s using up valuable nutrient that the
wheat should be using so it might affect the quality. I’ll be surprised if we get to
the milling wheat quality now so that is affecting us financially. But again we hoed it when
we could in March – we should have gone on again in April but the weather’s just
kept us off so there’s absolutely nothing we can do, except learn, learn from it. We’ll
be managing the weeds differently next year. Certainly where we’ve gone heavy with the
deep cultivations to break up those compaction issues we had – we’ve brought up a lot
of seed and we seriously need to think about how we achieve that, reducing of compaction
but not pulling up those embedded seeds down below. So that’s what we said right from
the start with this organic project – we’ve got to learn what was known here 60 years
ago and this has been our first lesson.
I suspect I know the answer to this next question, but with the charlock in Pond Field and in
all the fields on the organic farm what are your alternatives from here – what can you
do about it, if anything?
There are several things we can do. If I had the right equipment I could have got on earlier
in February to hoe and that would have taken some of the seed out or some of the smaller
plants, but because we’ve got heavy tractors, by the time we got on in March they were well
established and the hoe doesn’t actually move them so earlier hoeing would help but
to do that I either need to find or source a lightweight tractor that has the capacity
to pull the hoe or get some new shoes for these two which really gives you a much bigger
footprint – I just didn’t have the money in the budget - £6-7,000 for a set of four
really wide tyres or even dual tyres but it doesn’t take long to pay this back if you
can control the weeds. And the other thing is we’ve got to get away from fetching these
weeds back up so we were talking about direct drilling some time ago – that is one of
the options. Easy down here on the conventional farm because you’ve go the armory of the
chemicals to control the weeds. On the organic farm we can only control weeds through cultivation.
So what we’re going to try this year, we’ve got a new machine coming which I had budgeted
for – the nightpress we talked about last year, that’s that heavy packer that you
go through beat primary cultivation and then *** it back down hard that night it was the
yellow machine we looked at – that’s coming, it should be delivered for the Young Farmers
Show about 10th June and we can use it after that. What we’re going to do is cultivate
the very top maximum of 50mm deep and just cultivate that and cultivate it, germinate
it and let the seeds that are there germinate and then knock them off again. Work back to
a stale seed bed and hopefully then again reduce the amount of seed that can germinate
and causes this problem. So several opportunities and of course the wheat we’re growing now
will be cereals again next year so once that’s harvested I’ve got a short window of opportunity
to deal with that again. So that’ll be a matter of germinating the seeds on the surface,
not ploughing and then shallow cultivation and then drill. So were are in a different
place this year to where we were last year – we’ll be better equipped and knowledge.
That knowledge is useful.
So a great example for the MyFarmers that perfect contrast between conventionally farmed
wheat which is all looking lovely and weed-free and organically farmed wheat and the difficulties
that brings with it.
Absolutely, definitely – what is shows you is if you want a guaranteed yield to feed
a population, conventional systems will underline that, underscore it for you that you will
get a guaranteed crop. The organic system has all these benefits – it doesn’t use
the chemicals, it doesn’t use the fertilisers and relies on natural ecosytems but it’s
a long stretch to say that you’ll get a guaranteed that it’ll guarantee you a yield.
In time we will get better at it and to be fair to organic systems – we are starting
from scratch and I’ve visited farms , I’ve learnt a lot from what they’re doing, no
two farms are the same and nobody’s dealing with exactly what we’re dealing with here
so this is a learning curve that we’ve got to go through but it’s really interesting,
it’s a real challenge. We will get better. At the moment where I’m stood at the moment
these clean fields do look more attractive, but that’s my mind set, maybe I’ve got
to change that for the organic farm and accept a certain amount of weed – a percentage
is not a bad thing but the percentage we’ve got at the moment is definitely a problem.
As always you’ve got loads to crack on with so we’d better let you get to it.
Yep – I’ll finish my coffee.