1 March 2002

Essential drainage for reclaimed land

CARSE Halls land was reclaimed from the sea in 1848 and cropping relies on pumped under-drainage.

"Our fields here are from 18in above sea level to 3ft below."

In 1989 the sea wall was breached and the whole farm flooded leaving a fresh legacy of salt and nutrient imbalance problems.

The mainly sandy silt loams, with many sea shells still intact, are not hard to work, but need care to avoid losing structure, says Robert.

"We try not to use power-harrows and we do not roll winter barley."

Seed-beds are prepared with a slatted mouldboard plough which is followed by a locally-built spring-tine cultivator fitted with a press made from old aircraft wheels.

"Our establishment costs are quite low. We use a 4m MF30 drill with Suffolk coulters which we bought second-hand in England four years ago for £250. It cost £250 to get it here and we spent another £250 doing it up.

"Before ploughing we usually apply 1500gal/acre of slurry or 15t/acre of FYM. We have done it for three or four years, but are only just starting to see the benefit."

Slugs are rarely troublesome, probably because of the sandy soils, but high numbers of grazing swans do sometimes damage crops by puddling in winter. "They are pretty good growth regulators. But I would prefer to see them on my neighbours land unless we can get some form of compensation through Country-side Stewardship."