What to do?

gdog2

Member
Mixed Farmer
Hi all,
First post on thefarmingforum.
We are a beef farm on former sandy heathland that we now graze and cut for hay. Soil is very light and sandy with some clayey bits but this is mostly SSSI. pH low 5’s so have just limed our two best forage fields at 3t/acre with the 2mm to dust stuff.....I know a little heavy. However, agronomist recommended this dosage.
Agronomist also recommended experimenting with forage rape/turnip mixture and maybe cover cropping with white mustard over summer. I think lots of muck is going to be vital on our ground as well as minimal cultivation to conserve moisture.
Sika deer our are biggest threat here along with a droughty spring of course.

Could anyone advise how they manage this kind of ground? @DrWazzock I’m aware from previous threads you have quite infertile sandy ground on your patch; any help would be hugely appreciated.

Thanks gdog2
 

Two Tone

Member
Mixed Farmer
Hi all,
First post on thefarmingforum.
We are a beef farm on former sandy heathland that we now graze and cut for hay. Soil is very light and sandy with some clayey bits but this is mostly SSSI. pH low 5’s so have just limed our two best forage fields at 3t/acre with the 2mm to dust stuff.....I know a little heavy. However, agronomist recommended this dosage.
Agronomist also recommended experimenting with forage rape/turnip mixture and maybe cover cropping with white mustard over summer. I think lots of muck is going to be vital on our ground as well as minimal cultivation to conserve moisture.
Sika deer our are biggest threat here along with a droughty spring of course.

Could anyone advise how they manage this kind of ground? @DrWazzock I’m aware from previous threads you have quite infertile sandy ground on your patch; any help would be hugely appreciated.

Thanks gdog2
Welcome to TFF @gdog2 .
What part of the Country are you in and how much rainfall do you get annually?
 

gdog2

Member
Mixed Farmer
Thanks for the reply.
I’m south Dorset so not much rainfall in the summer and spring but being on the marshes we do get a lot of water in winter.
According to Met Office our average rainfall is 800-1000mm a year which is not a lot considering we are on light sand.
 

gdog2

Member
Mixed Farmer
That’s a good suggestion thank you. The only reason I wise thinking turnips is coz they’re cheap. If we get a dry summer do you think there’s even point in trying to establish them?
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
Welcome to the forum.
We are at the stage of considering continuous spring barley direct drilled on the sand and continuous grass on heavy land and everything else. Use the barley straw and barley to feed the cattle and apply the muck to the barley stubbles which maybe has to be lightly worked in to allow drilling.

Brassica such as turnips aren’t very reliable here now due to dry summers and flea beetle and get very badly poached during a wet winter. I’d be worried that a beast would choke on a small turnip even if the ground would carry them. Fodder beet is a fairly major undertaking and a lot of work requiring multiple timely herbicides etc.

We are trying to keep it simple now.
A lot depends on what equipment storage and facilities you already have and also the availability of local contractors, but here we have a combine and grain equipment and find modern varieties of spring barley do very well on sand, outperforming all other crops for fairly low input.I’d be inclined to plough if establishing barley after grass as cereals direct drilled into a grass ley seldom work well in our experience.
 

gdog2

Member
Mixed Farmer
Welcome to the forum.
We are at the stage of considering continuous spring barley direct drilled on the sand and continuous grass on heavy land and everything else. Use the barley straw and barley to feed the cattle and apply the muck to the barley stubbles which maybe has to be lightly worked in to allow drilling.

Brassica such as turnips aren’t very reliable here now due to dry summers and flea beetle and get very badly poached during a wet winter. I’d be worried that a beast would choke on a small turnip even if the ground would carry them. Fodder beet is a fairly major undertaking and a lot of work requiring multiple timely herbicides etc.

We are trying to keep it simple now.
A lot depends on what equipment storage and facilities you already have and also the availability of local contractors, but here we have a combine and grain equipment and find modern varieties of spring barley do very well on sand, outperforming all other crops for fairly low input.I’d be inclined to plough if establishing barley after grass as cereals direct drilled into a grass ley seldom work well in our experience.
@DrWazzock That’s very helpful advice, thanks for jumping in on my thread.
The continuous SB is interesting, would this go for wholecrop for your cattle or combine it? As you say dry summers are no good for establishing forage brassicas so I’ll probably write it off this year.

Whilst we have limed to get into the 6’s I’m concerned of nutrient lock up. I’m aware barley is sensitive to acidic conditions but do you bother liming on your sand where it is naturally acidic? I’m surprised you’re not more inclined to grow oats being more tolerant of low pH and better at weed suppression.

Our Cattle are winter hardy Galloway so we don’t get a huge amount of dung off them except what they leave behind after calving and in the fields. We’d probably have to look at getting some pig manure as chicken litter is hard to get hold of.

Out of curiosity, what varieties of SB do you use on sand? I always thought spring cropping would be a complete no go on very light land.

We don’t have much arable gear so would need contractors and grain storage is lacking but on 175 acres of non SSSI ground we could probably justify growing SB to sell and get hay off the rest of the farm. That could be a way of doing it.
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
@DrWazzock That’s very helpful advice, thanks for jumping in on my thread.
The continuous SB is interesting, would this go for wholecrop for your cattle or combine it? As you say dry summers are no good for establishing forage brassicas so I’ll probably write it off this year.

Whilst we have limed to get into the 6’s I’m concerned of nutrient lock up. I’m aware barley is sensitive to acidic conditions but do you bother liming on your sand where it is naturally acidic? I’m surprised you’re not more inclined to grow oats being more tolerant of low pH and better at weed suppression.

Our Cattle are winter hardy Galloway so we don’t get a huge amount of dung off them except what they leave behind after calving and in the fields. We’d probably have to look at getting some pig manure as chicken litter is hard to get hold of.

Out of curiosity, what varieties of SB do you use on sand? I always thought spring cropping would be a complete no go on very light land.

We don’t have much arable gear so would need contractors and grain storage is lacking but on 175 acres of non SSSI ground we could probably justify growing SB to sell and get hay off the rest of the farm. That could be a way of doing it.
We find Westminster is a very good spring barley feed variety for yield and straw though Planet allows the possibility of malting quality.
Both varieties are tolerant of dry springs. Westminster was in the ground for 100 days here in 2018 with no rain whatsoever yet yielded 3 tons per acre. It was direct drilled after beet.
Oats never seem to fill here in a dry time so we have given up on them.
We try to maintain pH at 6 to 6.5. Avoid overliming as this can cause copper and manganese lock up here.
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
I’ll just add that everybody’s situation is different. Turnips direct drilled in late July/ early August into sprayed off grass might well work if they get enough rain and the beetles leave them alone. Quite a gamble though and we’ve no experience of grading them with cattle, only sheep and that could be messy enough.
 

gdog2

Member
Mixed Farmer
I’ll just add that everybody’s situation is different. Turnips direct drilled in late July/ early August into sprayed off grass might well work if they get enough rain and the beetles leave them alone. Quite a gamble though and we’ve no experience of grading them with cattle, only sheep and that could be messy enough.
@DrWazzock yes of course but I question whether it’s even a risk worth taking as you say.

SB Westminster sounds very appealing. How do you incorporate the muck before direct drilling?
I presume your sand is very light and leaches nutrients fast? That’s the kind we got here in South Dorset.

We don’t really like ploughing purely because of the shallow top soil and loss of moisture but as you say we may have to resort to it in our current grass ley.
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
@DrWazzock yes of course but I question whether it’s even a risk worth taking as you say.

SB Westminster sounds very appealing. How do you incorporate the muck before direct drilling?
I presume your sand is very light and leaches nutrients fast? That’s the kind we got here in South Dorset.

We don’t really like ploughing purely because of the shallow top soil and loss of moisture but as you say we may have to resort to it in our current grass ley.
Perhaps use stubble cultivator like a terra disc to incorporate muck. Somebody will say this isn't direct drilling but it doesn't matter if it works.
If we plough sand here it tends to dry out and blow so we avoid doing so. But can get away with ploughing out grass ley as the humus, grass roots etc hold it together for long enough. Just don't plough too deep. 8" is plenty.
If your Galloway cattle are outside all year then it's a different ball game and not something I know much about. Cattle here are in yards over winter on barley straw, eating barley and hay. It would be a mess if we left them out.
 

gdog2

Member
Mixed Farmer
Blather it with muck, slurry, bio solids. Plough it in and reseed or spring barley
Ok spring barley or grass seems to be a common theme here so I’ll look at this seriously. Not sure whether the soil has got it in it for a cereal but worth a shot.
 

gdog2

Member
Mixed Farmer
Tbh the op is getting 50 percent more rain and a fair bit more sun and less frost than @DrWazzock is.

Maize, veg etc not in demand in your area?
A lot of maize grown so yes it is in demand but I know it’s also a very fussy crop. I was thinking rye might be a better option on our sand.
No one grows veg here to be honest. It’s either maize, grass or combinables. Rainfall isn’t high enough without irrigation.
 

gdog2

Member
Mixed Farmer
Perhaps use stubble cultivator like a terra disc to incorporate muck. Somebody will say this isn't direct drilling but it doesn't matter if it works.
If we plough sand here it tends to dry out and blow so we avoid doing so. But can get away with ploughing out grass ley as the humus, grass roots etc hold it together for long enough. Just don't plough too deep. 8" is plenty.
If your Galloway cattle are outside all year then it's a different ball game and not something I know much about. Cattle here are in yards over winter on barley straw, eating barley and hay. It would be a mess if we left them out.
@DrWazzock ok good point about the ploughing.
To be honest having them outside is a mess but they’re light enough to keep poaching to a minimum on our over-wintering fields.
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
@DrWazzock ok good point about the ploughing.
To be honest having them outside is a mess but they’re light enough to keep poaching to a minimum on our over-wintering fields.
They will make less mess on long term leys or permanent pasture. Young leys won’t carry them so well, nor will turnips.

If you have good grass leys already established I would hesitate to plough them or spray them off for turnips. Only destroy the grass leys if they have lost all the productive grasses are too rough for hay making or have too many weeds. We always include clover in our leys. This can be stitched in with a direct drill as can some decent ryegrass of course to rejuvenate an existing ley.
If you decide that a ley would better destroyed then maybe that’s an opportunity to try a couple years of spring barley before putting it back to grass maybe as undersown spring barley.
However the point I am making, is that for us in dry times the worst thing we did was plough out or spray off and direct drill grass leys. In dry times it can be a very expensive and fruitless business trying to grow a crop of turnips or even drill a new grass ley whereas an established grass ley is cheap and less risky to run. And we find that with dry springs, spring barley is the only crop that will get away fairly reliably, isn’t eaten off by beetles and is fairly cheap to look after.
It’s game over for brassicas here due to flea beetle. Grass leys are expensive and risky to reestablish from scratch.
Be cautious would be my advice. If the Galloways can overwinter on permanent pasture and hay with a bit of bought in hard feed then its probably better to leave it as it is. It’s robust, low risk and simple.
I’m not there on the ground though. I’m here and it’s very dry and frosty.and I’m a lot more cautious than I used to be.
 

gdog2

Member
Mixed Farmer
They will make less mess on long term leys or permanent pasture. Young leys won’t carry them so well, nor will turnips.

If you have good grass leys already established I would hesitate to plough them or spray them off for turnips. Only destroy the grass leys if they have lost all the productive grasses are too rough for hay making or have too many weeds. We always include clover in our leys. This can be stitched in with a direct drill as can some decent ryegrass of course to rejuvenate an existing ley.
If you decide that a ley would better destroyed then maybe that’s an opportunity to try a couple years of spring barley before putting it back to grass maybe as undersown spring barley.
However the point I am making, is that for us in dry times the worst thing we did was plough out or spray off and direct drill grass leys. In dry times it can be a very expensive and fruitless business trying to grow a crop of turnips or even drill a new grass ley whereas an established grass ley is cheap and less risky to run. And we find that with dry springs, spring barley is the only crop that will get away fairly reliably, isn’t eaten off by beetles and is fairly cheap to look after.
It’s game over for brassicas here due to flea beetle. Grass leys are expensive and risky to reestablish from scratch.
Be cautious would be my advice. If the Galloways can overwinter on permanent pasture and hay with a bit of bought in hard feed then its probably better to leave it as it is. It’s robust, low risk and simple.
I’m not there on the ground though. I’m here and it’s very dry and frosty.and I’m a lot more cautious than I used to be.
Good advice thank you. The leys here have been permanent pasture for years and are now dominated by grass weeds and rushes so I’m keen to start afresh. Really our cattle should be inside in the winter but we don’t have the space nor time and labour to do this. For grass leys we’d only drill in autumn, a spring grass seed here will almost always fail.
Sounds like spring barley is the crop to go for!
 

Speculative coverage on the gene editing consultation response

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Speculative coverage on the gene editing consultation response

Written by Defra Press Office

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There has been coverage today in the I and the Guardian, reporting on speculation around the upcoming government response to the recent Gene Editing consultation, which closed on 17th March.

A full government response, which will include a thorough analysis and summary of the responses to the consultation and which will set out our next steps, will be published in due course.

Gene editing has the ability to harness the genetic resources that mother nature has provided, such as breeding...
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