"WHEN the seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think the sardines are being thrown into the sea"
Eric Cantonas epic lines on the power and grace of seagulls, which presumably inspire him at Old Trafford, have also had an effect at Glastry Farm. Let me explain.
At this side of the snow-line, just south of the igloos and reindeer, we have had a bit of a problem with maize. After four years experience, the quantity of the crop is no problem, consistently 18-20t fresh weight. Last year gave us a glimpse of what 30% dry matter well-ripened cobs could deliver in terms of milk. So we have been exploring ways of improving the quality of the crop to achieve consistency.
Agricultural Technology division at Greenmount have given help with a trial using plastic film. The theory is excellent. The use of plastic gives quicker germination and faster growth early in the season as soil temperature is raised by about 3C. It also increases dry matter yields with increased grain content as well as giving a potentially earlier harvest than conventionally sown crops. This would give us the opportunity to sow forage rye as a catch crop.
The maize was drilled on May 6 by our contractor Roy Townley, on a near perfect seed-bed. We used 40,000 seed/acre and the varieties Hudson and Molady. Fertiliser use was 30 N, 110 P and 170K. Normally our maize area would receive a lot of cow slurry, but this year we have moved to a new site which was ploughed at the beginning of November out of grass. We felt that the disadvantage of soil compaction ruled out the cost advantage of the slurry, hence the higher than normal fertiliser usage. Weed control was 3 litres/ha of Atrazine incorporated into the seed-bed.
Everything seemed to be going according to the great master plan. Eugene McBride made a great job of laying the plastic and we sat back to await results.
Then Cantonas seagulls arrived! From all over Ireland they came, Gallic ones as well (they were wearing berets). Their attraction appeared to be the landing strips of plastic and to let us know they had landed unsuccessfully they pecked holes obligingly in the plastic.
Emergency measures were adopted. Cynthia delivered kung-fu kicks at the offenders (I couldnt lift my legs that high) who may have been Crystal Palace fans. Anyway, we now have a trial using perforated plastic, which I will report on in due course. *
Growing maize under plastic may help Will Taylor and his son Gareth make better maize silage – but only if they can keep the seagulls at bay.