It’s been a fantastic few weeks with the sun shinning brightly and swallows flying around the orchard. That’s of course unless you are trying to grow crops or sow wild bird cover. We finally had some proper rain at the start of June, which was great for the wheat but less helpful for the visitors. From a crop management perspective the dry weather has pros and cons. One advantage has been low fungal disease level within the wheat. Our winter wheat variety, Oakley, is susceptible to a range of diseases including yellow and brown rusts, but these have been very effectively kept in check by the dry conditions.The major disadvantage was the effectiveness of post emergence grass weed control. Blackgrass populations are high this year with the spray post Christmas having little effect. The oilseed rape has just about finished flowering and the contractor is already preparing for harvest normally around mid July.

Away for the main commercial crops, we have concentrated on sowing areas of wild bird cover, pollen and nectar and flower rich mixes as part of a new experimental area and establishing, with the help of some specialist contractors two small areas of Miscanthus and Willow Coppice primarily for demonstration purposes.

Bird numbers are looking promising although there is the normal caveat that we have yet to complete the breeding season monitoring. Certainly as I walk the farm there are plenty of skylark, linnet and reed bunting but perhaps fewer yellowhammer than last year. We are also recording regular turtle dove and grey partridge which is pleasing. The dry weather appears has been a bonus for the starlings with productivity from the nest boxes unusually high. You can read more about the starling ringing and research work in previous blogs.

We have now started work on the next five year strategy, some the studies we intend to carry out over the next year will include:

Biodiversity/Carbon - Starting a new project to assess if ryegrass margins have the potential to provide winter seed to benefit  birds such as yellowhammer and assess how effective they are at storing carbon. 

Diffuse pollution -  working with an MSc student to assess the  risks from the site and identify ways of reducing the impact from farming activities

Carbon -  Identifying which mitigation options have the greatest potential for the site.



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