Farmer Focus Arable: Charlton adds apple trees to cropping mix

A new crop has been added at Poplar Farm: Apple trees. We planted 210 trees on a 3.4ha field in broadly-spaced lines with arable cropping in between.

The traditional Norfolk lines are a mixture of seven dessert and three cooking varieties. My aim is to assess what effect creating greater biodiversity in-field might have on natural pest control, as well as, I hope, being able to wring a few extra pound coins out of the operation.

The project was made possible by a Carbon Reduction Grant from the County Council, our landlords. An interesting footnote is due to an error by the supplier of tree guards, half the trees were left uncovered for a weekend and the hare damage was quite noticeable even though we don’t tend to see many hares in the daytime. There are obviously plenty of hungry hares roaming across the farm at night.

With spring work just getting going again, it’s a relief that such a hard and long winter is behind us. It is probably no bad thing, however, as this has been the busiest winter period I can remember with large amounts of machinery being changed, leading to the inevitable hassle of re-designing things like front weight frames and loader brackets.

I’m fortunate there are several neighbours and mechanics who are more than handy with a welder, as my own efforts normally don’t last too long.

The biggest change has been to a 5m power harrow with front-mounted press for seed-bed making. I’m hoping that it will be able to keep up with the 3m Rapid drill as well as being safer to cart along the road as the rig is foldable. I grow more concerned that drivers use straight country roads as an excuse to drive more recklessly.

  • More from other Farmer Focus writers
  • More columns from Andrew Charlton
    • See more