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Talking arable with with Ian Matts: This year's Open Farm Sunday will focus on the environment

A brief weather window in early February has allowed some unexpected but welcome activity.

Storm Ciara and now Dennis put a swift end to it before we could get too carried away, limiting the drilling to just the lighter land but with the subsequent rain it is probably a good job that the heavier land wouldn’t go at the time.

 

Thankfully the majority of the land that was drilled was swiftly followed by a pre-em, with just one field outstanding.

 


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Drilled

 

All the winter crops have had their first dressing of nitrogen now, though sadly this didn’t take very long at all, mainly because it was one job that could be ticked off to allow drilling to be prioritised when the conditions are right, rather than because the timing was ideal for nitrogen applications.

 

It should, however, certainly help the more backward wheat when they do get growing. Tiller survival may be critical for a few fields that are looking a little thinner than hoped.

 

Educating

 

Planning for this year’s Open Farm Sunday has already begun. This year we are intending to focus on the environment, highlighting the activities we are currently carrying out over the various farms, ranging from standard buffer strips to management of hedgerows, nectar flower mixes and feeding for winter birds.

 

We will also focus on the role cover crops play in the rotation and the wider potential benefits we hope to capture. I have not been through the exercise yet, but I intend to calculate the lengths of hedgerows and buffer strips as well as the total areas down to these various options across the seven farms to try to bring it to life for the visitors.

 

The figures may come as a surprise, even internally, as we are not particularly good at promoting some of the good that we carry out each year.

Staff

 

We have recently agreed to take on a placement student starting this summer and are looking forward to him joining the team.

 

We have not had a placement for a few seasons, and things appear to have changed in that time, with the balance of power swinging in the students favour with significantly more positions available than students to fill them.

 

Unless I can persuade David to come back for another summer with us, we are still on the lookout for one more position this summer to operate one of the chaser bins.

 

This may be a difficult sell however, as harvest is not going to be an early start this time, and may go on a bit later than students are able to fulfil. This was one of the major reasons for looking at a placement student in the first place, as the peaks in workload typically come at the end of the summer, once students have returned to university and in the spring.

 

There is something of a focus on personnel for us at the moment, as we are also in the process of replacing our chairman.

 

Lindsay Hargraves has been with us for nine years and has overseen a number of significant changes along the way. We have had some very good candidates come forward and will hopefully finalise the position shortly, but I have no doubt we will find someone who is able to help take us forward to face the multitude of challenges we will inevitably face over the next few uncertain years.

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