Heavy lands yield well –
but we need some rain
Continuing this years barometer grower series, Andrew Blake reports from a heavy land unit in Huntingdonshire
IF the land drains run during the winter at Wood Farm, Bluntisham, good yields are more or less assured. Unfortunately they have stayed dry so far this season.
The Godfrey family has worked Wood Farm for at least 150 years. Today its all-arable 274ha (677 acres) are run by brothers Philip and Michael and one full-time employee.
Long-term aim is to expand through taking on more land and contracting work. A more immediate target is to learn to live with grain at £90/t, says Philip.
The land, mainly heavy clay near sea level beside the River Ouse but with some slightly lighter soil 30m (100ft) up, has good yield potential despite relatively low annual rainfall of 560mm (22in).
"The worry this year is that we have had no drains running. We need substantial rain in the next six weeks," says Philip.
Top fruit once dominated the area – indeed there are still several orchards nearby. Today wheat is usually the main money spinner, with oilseed rape and peas as breaks.
Access to about 14ha (35 acres) of contracted non-IACS eligible land this year could bring fibre flax into the reckoning.
Annual on-farm wheat trials run by Acorn Seeds give the brothers a good insight into varieties. "But we also go to the NIAB Seeds day. The results seem to tie in."
Riband, well suited to the high input approach generally advocated by AICC member Michael Wright, is the mainstay. He has advised the brothers for three years.
Other varieties this season include Rialto and Hereward, the latter replacing Mercia as the breadmaker usually grown in the second wheat slot. "We are also trying a bit of Charger for the first time," says Philip. Home-saved seed accounts for most crops.
Synergy oilseed rape is in its second season, backing main variety Apex and its possible replacement Alpine. Peas have yielded well recently on the lighter ground.
Good moisture availability and minimal soil compaction are the keys to good crops at Wood Farm, Bluntisham, Ely, says Philip Godfrey.
Wood Farm 1997 cropping and typical yields
Winter wheat (Riband,
Rialto, Hereward, Charger)174(430)8.5(3.4)
Winter oilseed rape (Apex,
Combining peas (Elan)15(37)5.7(2.3)