Farmer Focus: A trip to Uzbekistan and need for rain

We recently had a welcome break from the farm and travelled for 12 days in Uzbekistan.

We arrived in Tashkent, flew to Nukus and then overland across the steppe to what remains of the Aral Sea and then back to Tashkent through Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. 

You will probably recall the environmental disastrous story of the Aral Sea from your geography lessons.

See also: Crop Watch: Weevil problems and too dry for spring crops

About the author

John Pawsey
Arable Farmer Focus writer John Pawsey is an organic farmer at Shimpling Park in Suffolk. He started converting the 650ha of arable cropping in 1999, and also contract farms an additional 915ha organically, growing wheat, barley, oats, beans and spelt.
Read more articles by John Pawsey

Almost completely drained by the Soviets to feed their cotton expansion in Uzbekistan, the sea was considerably reduced in size – from the fourth-largest in the world to 10% of its size by 1997.

The remaining 90% of the sea is now a salty desert and regularly distributes salt across the country, causing farmers to flood their fields to desalinate them in order to remain productive.

However, from the windows of our train as we travelled South and East, I could see some pretty good-looking green wheat crops, as well as lots of examples of newly established agroforestry. 

Looking around the farm on my return it was a relief to see our own spring cereals emerging, managing to cling on to some moisture after drilling.

However, we have had no rain for a month now and a shower would be very welcome.

After spring drilling was complete, we managed to get all our winter crops inter-row hoed, as well as our sheep grazing leys undersowed in our spring oats.

Because spring oats are more competitive than wheat or barley, we can sow grass and clover into them as soon after drilling as we like.

Their competitiveness keeps the ley out of the way of the combine.

If undersowing in spring barley, we tend to wait until growth stage 31-32, as if sown any earlier it can be a problem with more vigorous clovers growing out of the top of the crop.

This would otherwise make harvest a little testing.

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