Changeable but basically warm and dry weather has continued to push crop development along at a fair pace. The rain which spoilt some of the hay has done great service in keeping crops green and allowing grain fill to take place without premature dying off. We baled the rest of the hay in good condition and we have enough in the barn to satisfy our regular customers. Some was carted home from a friends newly sown grass which involved several trips along the A140. Not a relaxing experience but one which was completed without any serious drama thank goodness.
The rape is ready for desiccation with roundup as we speak. Much has been written about the desirability of this use for the chemical recently. Agronomists and crop researchers assure us that glyphosate is perfectly safe for assisted ripening of rape and cereals and I prefer to listen to scientists rather than enthusiastic amateur pontifications. Rapeseed can be left to ripen naturally, and we have done this successfully in the past. The advantage of a chemical ripener is that the seed will all be at a uniform moisture content and that any green weeds in the crop such as cleavers and thistles will be killed leaving a cleaner stubble.
The rape crushing mills are becoming much fussier about the quality of the seed being delivered. Unripe seed which is red or green will reduce the quality and purity of the oil which is obviously undesirable. The presence of weed seeds such as charlock and old-fashioned rape varieties contain high erucic acid levels are also now being penalised on rejected. We are all having to put much more effort into the crop husbandry of rape growing to the extent that some fields may be unusable until they have been cleaned up using non brassica crops.
A few months ago, I reported on a campaign organised by the RSPB locally to encourage turtle doves to breed in the area between Stonham Aspal and Needham Market. We have been feeding suitable seed every two days for the last two months at five different spots on the farm and have seen or heard Turtle Doves over this period at four of the points. The comment from one of the RSPB volunteers monitoring on efforts was that seeing the birds was so common the they were hardly worth mentioning. Ironically the only place they have not been seen is the spot that we had chosen for them and sown a plot of special food plants!! No one told the doves they were supposed to spend their summer there! It will be interesting to see whether they are still around during and after harvest as we are due to stop feeding when the rape has been harvested as there should be plenty of spilt grain for them then as well as other seed producing wild plants in the grass strips. Particularly, thanks to Emma and Mary for their help in covering the outlying land.