We had about 18 people join us for this farm walk held on 31st October 2016. Some were farmers and their agronomists from Hampshire who are not yet BASE UK members while others were BASE members who came from as far as Kent and the Cotswolds.
A good discussion was had over lunch as to the reasons we are experimenting with mixed varieties of wheat crops and also Oilseed rape. This decision is part of a bigger picture to turn back the clock in the amount of chemicals we use here at Penn Croft. The discussion also included whether we would be using an insecticide on emerging wheat this autumn. Generally it was felt that we would not be doing this as there is some scientific evidence that uncultivated land is less attractive to aphids landing.
We then walked across a number of fields with some into cover crops and others with wheat planted behind Mustard or Sunflowers. Soil was dug in areas where there had been a problem in the past with drainage and compaction and the marked improvement in soil structure and condition was noted along with the huge numbers of worm casts on all the fields we were walking. This was the result of several years of Conservation Agriculture. An adjoining field had OSR growing with Berseem clover as a companion. There was a lot of interest in this and debates as to the benefit, the choice of companion crop especially as cleavers cannot be controlled effectively with Berseem clover present.
There were many individual discussions going on as we walked a number of fields revolving around cover crop species, how late to drill such crops, slug control, mixes of species, drill types and other topics.
The final destination on our farm walk was a field of Mustard that was over waist high and part way through flowering. In a section of this field we had recently cut the mustard at different heights to see whether we could get some regrowth from the stubble while preventing the mustard from setting seed. The discussion in this field ranged other ways of controlling the growth by rolling it once or twice before the next frost or when to spray it off with Roundup. We also discussed the value of this enormous mustard crop to the soil and how to make the best of that material.
Many thanks to Simon for hosting this farm walk. If any BASE Members would like to arrange a similar event and need help getting information to our Members, please contact Rebecca on firstname.lastname@example.org with details including date, venue, type of event, booking contact details and a brief description of what will be shown (type of land/crops/machinery etc). By sharing, we learn.