Farmer Focus: Andrew Charlton February column

This is the season for gathering NRoSO points. But in my case it is not a particularly valuable exercise, as seminars aimed at organic producers don’t tend to carry points.

That means having to stock up on points by attending meetings of little other than general interest.

Turning to something of value, wheats here look pleasing. Einstein is starting to tiller, with Shepherd, a trial variety, not far behind.

The crops have not been touched since drilling and soil conditions are not quite dry enough to start tine weeding.

There are some cleavers and speedwell, but nothing serious. Some cold, windy days in the next few weeks should dry the topsoil enough to make it fluffy, which is when tining is most effective, as the weeds pull out easily.

Neighbours and friends farming conventionally often say they could not go organic because of their high levels of blackgrass and slugs, and fears that these would be unmanageable in such a rotation.

In practice I, and many others in my position, have found that these two bugbears simply disappear as significant problems under organic regimes.

No one knows why my guess is that slugs are predated by something. Starlings? Carabid beetles?

And blackgrass won’t stand clover in the rotation – it’s just about the only plant it can’t compete against.

That said I still have about 2ha out of 41 which I don’t think will be pretty, but I can live with that.

There are no technical data to support these findings, just field observations. And no manufacturer is going to sell any product by proving a negative, so why bother?

Nature abhors a vacuum, and as one set of problems diminishes others become important, particularly docks and thistles, which you may expect to hear more about in my reports in the summer.


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