A wet winter has landed here in the Chilterns, much later than usual. September was the driest on record, and October has been unusually mild. However this has made for a good planting season.
Changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have meant farmers have had to change a lot of their standard practices to fit in line with the new rules which, simply put, mean farmers must grow 3 different crops on their land.
First thing, after deciding what crops to put in the ground, is deciding what varieties of each crop to grow. There are many varieties, each with their own qualities and weaknesses, that will affect every process in the life of the crop, right the way through from plant establishment to marketing and selling the crop.
For every tonne of cereal grain sold off UK farms, a levy is paid to part fund the HGCA (Home Grown Cereals Authority). They invest their funds into research and development of new breeds of cereals that come onto the market, and recommend to farmers which varieties to go for depending on the circumstance.
After the variety is selected, growers need to calculate the seed rate required to establish the perfect crop. Too many seeds is a false economy, giving too many plants that compete against each other and don't fulfil potential. However under seeding obviously gives a thin crop that won't pay for the field. The balance has to be just right which involves using a formula taking into account the field conditions and likely germination %, along with the TGW (thousand grain weight) of the seed and the target population (plants/m2).This information can be used to calibrate the equipment and put the correct quantity of seed in the ground for the desired outcome.
Seed depth is also a vital factor to consider when planting. The seed needs to be deep enough to reach adequate moisture, and for the roots to be well anchored and well protected during the winter months. However too deep and emergence of the plant is delayed which will have an impact on yield.
Once the seed is in the ground, the process is completed with a set of rolls. Seed - soil contact is critical when planting any seed. The more soil contact the better the germination, so we run a set of rollers over the ground to press the soil and give the seed as much contact with it as possible.So now, we keep our fingers crossed and hope the plants grow!