Jean Charles

15 February 2002

Jean Charles


Jean Charles Renaudat

farms 560ha (1384 acres)

of brash land 200 miles

south of Paris. Continuous

wheat has recently been

replaced by a wide-range of

combinable crops

IT is time to decide what to drill this spring. Several options are available: spring barley, millet, sunflower, peas, sorghum, fenugreek. On price the better option is sunflower, worth £200/t at present. The down-side is the crops drought sensitivity.

Aphanomyces disease makes growing peas a risky business in our soil, millet and sorghum for bird-seed are difficult to sell when we have snow-free winter, and barley, like all other cereals, is worth the same price as it was 25 years ago.

So fenugreek will be probably the choice: Firstly, it is a legume with a strong rooting capacity; Secondly, we can use Kerb (propyzamide) or Legurame (carbetamide) for weed control, giving a fop and dim break; Thirdly, I have the equipment on the farm to add some value by hulling, crushing and bagging the seed; And fourthly, it is exciting to grow a new crop. Like most of my crops, the fenugreek will be spread with a trailed pneumatic fertiliser spreader, guided by GPS then covered with two heavy harrow passes.

Two other seasonal concerns are when and how much to apply as the first winter cereal nitrogen dressing. For the "when" we have a cheap and convenient tool. In every field, of every variety, we have drilled a double density strip. When that starts to change colour it is time for the first N-dressing.

About the "how much" question, it seems the efficiency of N usage is proportional to the speed of crop growth. Hence return on investment at the end of winter is often quite low for nitrogen – we will use only 30 kg/ha (24cwt/acre).

Yesterday, I heard at a farm meeting that some nematodes can help to decrease slug populations. I have cover-cropped land between main crops for many years with an anti-nematode mustard. Admittedly the main aim is to prevent nitrogen leaching but it seems I may have been discouraging a natural slug killer at the same time. Nothing is simple in farming &#42

Heavy harrows will be used to work in broadcast fenugreek, Jean Charles Renaudats preferred choice of crop this spring.

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