Trevor Horsnell, a former
Sugar Beet Grower of the
Year, part owns and rents
182ha (450 acres) at
Gorrells Farm, Highwood,
Chelmsford, Essex. Besides
beet, his cropping includes
potatoes and winter wheat,
barley and oilseed rape
HOW much easier life would be in the autumn if I could gaze into my crystal ball in August and forecast the weather.
At the risk of becoming a weather bore, I am convinced there are now only two types here in Essex – very dry or very wet. September produced just 3mm (0.1in) of rain, one of our driest ever months. But it never fails to amaze me just how little rain it can take to transform our seed-beds from concrete-like clods, which stubbornly resist the best attentions of any cultivator, to a state that can be best described as sticky toffee pudding.
50mm (2in) of rain in early October has been more than enough to effect this transformation.
With potato harvesting occupying us for much of September I like to leave ploughed land as rain-proof as possible so that if it is too wet to lift potatoes we can often still drill.
We simply plough, roll and leave nature to take its course. Whenever we indulge in recreational tillage and power harrow behind the plough, monsoon-like rains surely follow. I am not afraid to admit I got it wrong again this autumn and this policy has resulted in cereal drilling not starting until Oct 9.
Main cereals this autumn are again Gaelic, Riband, Soissons and a reduced area of Brigadier. Reaper is being tried with a view to replacing Brigadier next year. We also have smaller areas of Abbot and Charger.
Most of our seed is home produced. TGW checks revealed values of 40-46gm enabling us to reduce the quantity dressed by about 20% to what we might have done otherwise. The aim was to sow 350 seeds a sq m, but this has been increased to 375.
Potato harvesting has been hampered by desert conditions and the need to take several steps to prevent bruising. We have a new refrigerated box store for much of this years crop which meant buying another 1000 boxes. Kit form ones saved us over £8000, but unfortunately they do not put themselves together.
The last 200 had to be finished in September, occupying time which might have been spent bashing clods about and drilling, so that now we, too, might have had some of the patchy wheat that seems fashionable at the moment.
What a difference a few weeks makes. Most of Ian Browns oilseed rape was sown in early August.The thin patch went in towards the end of the month.