As we look ahead to 2020 with maybe 30% of our planned winter crops in the ground and some of them looking none too clever, it’s time for some clear thinking, and firmly soil-focused thinking that goes well beyond the immediate season at that.
Well, it’s safe to say we are not quite in the position we would’ve hoped to be at this point in the year, however the kit is looking sparkling.
As the season draws to a close, we don’t need reminding what a challenge it has been since it started raining in September.
There comes a point during an autumn like this that for two reasons you stop taking much notice of how much rain has fallen.
In my last article I wrote about how soils conditions were about near perfect, temperatures were Mediterranean and spirits were generally high following a bumper harvest. Oh how things can change in a matter of weeks.
We’ve not got as many apples and plums as last year, but the pears are pretty good and the rain over the summer has not only helped the wheat and barley harvests but also the fern growth on our asparagus which is much bigger than last season.
Cereals has been and gone; it was good to catch up with lots of people and it was interesting that I was asked more about my garden and the house move than sugar beet or potatoes. But as one of my colleagues is always telling me, my writing is more like an episode of The Archers than a technical column so maybe it is to be expected.
Writing in the middle of June most of the winter and spring crops I walk have received their full spray programme. The next main pass will be desiccation of oilseed rape.
With harvest on the horizon, we are quietly optimistic about most of our winter crops; an optimism reinforced by encouraging yield predictions from the advanced Contour model we are testing on several farms this season. Only time will tell whether we are both right, of course.
Productivity varies considerably from region to region. Variations are due to a diverse mix of cultural, political, environmental and social factors, all particular to the locality. Climatic conditions can bring both challenges and opportunities in equal measure.