Trevor Horsnell, a former
Sugar Beet Grower of the
Year, part owns and rents
182ha (450 acres) at
Gorrells Farm, Highwood,
Chelmsford, Essex. Besides
beet, his cropping includes
potatoes and winter wheat,
barley and oilseed rape
JANUARY brought a mere 13mm (0.5 in) of rain and some very springlike days. We seem to have had no winter at all and crops are straining at the leash.
It may surprise some readers, but last years rainfall was only average, 540mm (21in) to be precise. However, a large percentage of this fell at key times – potato planting and wheat harvest – with serious financial implications in terms of crop quality and extra drying charges. To cap it all, the wheat we dried and put into store at 15% moisture has acquired an extra 1-1.5% and it is having to be dried again. At least it is blowing the mites out into the yard!
As soon as soil conditions permit we will apply 110kg/ha (88 units/acre) of nitrogen to the oilseed rape, and the same again next month. It has all come through the winter well, though the field we broadcast into the standing wheat has suffered a bit more leaf death. That is perhaps due to the straw and it will also need treating for cleavers as it is our worst field for the weed. One of the other fields has quite a few poppies but here we will swallow our pride and save the money. In doing so we will be able to follow Tony Blairs advice and diversify, charging artists and photographers to come and record the expected blaze of colour.
Just to make sure we reach all possible markets, we shall advertise on the internet and probably in the Gay and Lesbian Times as well. Maybe Cadburys could come and do a remake of the old "Flake" advertisement, or perhaps after the events at last weeks NFU conference for "Flake" you should read "êclair".
Speaking of which, well done Birgit Cunningham for briefly lifting the doom and gloom of the proceedings. However, I doubt her direct action would have generated quite so much media attention but for the fact she is female, pretty and apparently has something of a colourful past.
Untreated poppies in oilseed rape should put a bit of colour back in the Essex countryside this summer and earn some alternative income, says Trevor Horsnell.