Farmer Focus: Leaky water main adds excitement to irrigating

A combination of beautiful sunshine and temperatures in the 20s have given us an early summer the like we have not seen for a while.

Crops that a month ago looked to have some potential are starting to look very different.

The thinner soils overlying the free-draining shillet are really showing up. This is particularly noticeable where fields were amalgamated in the 1970s.

See also: Irrigation efficiency advice for potato growers

Our irrigation reels are busy applying water to potatoes and onions, something that they have not had to do much of in recent years.

Demand for straw

One of our underground mains which has not seen a lot of action for a while due to rotational reasons has thrown up a few leaks along the way adding to the excitement.

The rumour the hedgetrimmer may have come too close to a hydrant top at some stage is unsubstantiated.

So far the soil moisture levels at potato depth are satisfactory but the more shallow-rooted onions are requiring regular watering to satisfy their thirst.

The one advantage to potatoes being planted later than normal is they are not yet requiring their usual water for the time of the year. A lot will now depend on the length of the dry spell.

There have been a couple of standing straw auctions recently in the South West which probably turned out like we all thought they would.

Prices driven by shortage have set off at a good level (wearing my arable farmer hat). I am certainly seeing plenty of interest from customers both new and old. Whether the demand will be satisfied remains to be seen.

Last year was the year to store straw and sell it overwinter rather than at harvest, this year could possibly be the reverse.

Our summer students have arrived and are eagerly finding their way around. First job for them is daffodil bulb harvest which is making steady if somewhat dusty progress.

The Maris Otter barley is looking likely to be the first crop to meet the combine.