Potatoes in Norfolk

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Potato lifting is going well with conditions in our favour. The potatoes are being lifted by the grimme 2 row self propelled and put into a Jones potato chaser which in turns loads a lorry and start to the factory to make crisps. With the sea in the back ground they will make good salt and vinegar crisps.

Annual hedgecutting day has opened

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Archie is off cutting the hedges around the farm. The first day of hedge cutting is open. He is doing a grand job, there’s nothing better than seeing a hedge cut and the farm looking smart, it gives me great pleasure in seeing a farm with cut hedges that I’ve planted and my grandfather planted before me. My long term aspiration is to have all the gaps planted and uniform.

Subsoiling

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Operating at 16″ with wide wings and a point, getting below the compaction pan. The idea is the legs are at 500 mm spacings, the tines and wings pull up the soil from below breaking and cracking the pan and soil. The cracking allows the roots to grow through the soil profile to get to deep moisture, nutrients and aids drainage through wet times. Over subsoiling collapses the soil causing compaction by removing soil structure.

Secondary cultivations

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Considering the prolonged Dry period from the 8th May until mid August it’s surprising to see the ground has responded well to some rain. We had 6 weeks where the heavy land cultivation had to stop as the land had baked hard that the wear rate on the machinery wasn’t cost effective to continue and we had to stand machinery up and wait. The primary cultivations are underway and the secondary passes have started to prepare the barley land.

It’s pleasing to see the seed beds coming down nicely in advance, giving the blackgrass time to grow. It’s a critical time from weed management by allowing the weeds to grow which we can spray off with glyphosate. This one pass can save numerous others on the crop.

Mole draining this year hasn’t been amble to be conducted due to dry conditions that the subsoil at 22″ is Dry and won’t hold a mole (moulding the soil), we will have to wait until next year. If we did mole drain it would render useless and then we would have water in the wrong place.

Combine 1

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Combine 1 is on third day of cleaning and after 2 days of blow down is on the wash bay. Painting next before being put to bed.

Grass cutting

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We are busy cutting grass, flailing out the ditches ahead of the cultivation team and preparation for the annual start to hedge cutting on the 1st September.

Sadly due to the hedgecutting date being changed to the 1st September due to increasing the closed date for nesting birds has put more pressure on land owners to cut the hedges in a month ahead of the drilling and operating ahead of the wet soils for cross compliance.

One man starting in July until October is a more gentle approach than delaying until September to October with numerous machines across a farm as the only approach to carry out timely.

Three hedge cutters and a mower are currently working in a rotation across the farms. We try to keep the machines on different farms so our presence on the farms is minimised for the wildlife over this period.

I carried out some trails on the early controls on hedgecutting and found that a gentle annual trim barely disturbed a hedge and wildlife with the added advantage that it left the vast majority of berries for winter feeding.

Others are suggesting an alternative approach of Cutting a hedge on a three yearly programme which is in my view torture to the environment and the hedge becomes butchered due the three years growth which to take back to its original form leaves it bare and hopeless for the wildlife as a place of haven from predators and suitable nesting place. It also puts large wooden splinters into the ditches which in turn block culverts.

Two diggers are still following to aid the water management, digging the ditches out in a rotation. We are currently on last years wheat ahead of the barley and winter beans.

Keeping the water flowing as the conditions get wetter is paramount.

We haven’t been able to moledrain this year as the subsoil is too dry and a mole won’t form and will collapse which will work against us in aiding drainage.

Muck spreading and base fertiliser is being applied in ideal conditions.

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