Forage maize not looked back

Writers Posted 21/07/20
The only crop Nick has in the ground is forage maize – and it’s not looked back.

So the season moves on. The wet late winter and early spring turned suddenly to ‘fine and dry’ then very quickly to drought. Some spring cereal crops now look almost beyond hope and the pattern of several previous years seems to be repeating itself.

The only crop we have in the ground at this time is forage maize which we planted on 21 April after two inches of rain; risking frost, but although there were a couple of light ones the crop sailed on, got its roots down, beat the wireworm, and has not looked back. Now in late June it is approaching seven feet, and the only damage it has suffered came from the sprayer wheels, but it largely recovered, so the anticipation is of a good crop when it is cut in September. Never having run a modern sprayer I’m not an expert, but I do seem to remember having the crop sprayed previously by one fitted with narrow ‘rowcrop’ wheels? They would have saved a lot of damage here, although perhaps it is not an option now the spray booms cover 36m? Perhaps it weighs too much?

The vines planted by the vineyard in May are showing strong growth. Most ‘heads’ were over the top of their protective tubes by 30 June so clearly have their ‘feet’ down in some moisture, which will be a relief. When we had the herd, the whole area now put to vines was quite easily reached by the underground pipes and hydrant system which we used to get rid of dirty water. While these are still there, the pipes are now considered unnecessary. In fact I imagine deep rooting plants like vines will very soon be finding adequate moisture even in the very driest seasons. We shall see.

We had been planning to drive north by now to see the progress of the forest in Argyll, but for all too obvious reasons, we have not left Sussex. There should be a lot to see as it is now almost 22 months since we were there and, I am told by my local ‘eyes’, the sitka plantations have grown phenomenally. I think growth will need to be more than ‘phenomenal’ for them to be fit for harvesting while we are still alive and kicking! It is around a 35-year cycle and they were planted in 2010/11.

Additionally, I have to have a close look at the bit of new land next door to the forest which the agents, Scottish Woodlands, were hoping to get planted up with further sitka spruce by the end of the year. However, with the way everything seems to have been affected by the virus issue, I imagine, this might be a difficult deadline for them to meet.

At least the land should be easier to plant, since it is not so high and doesn’t run up into rocky outcrops, as the top ground on the main forest does. While many steeper features were untouched there, to meet environmental concerns, they ploughed down over some very steep land containing a good many acres. The trees planted there are now taking a healthy hold but are not quite so forward as those on the better land.

This new land is on fairly gentle, south to south easterly-facing slopes. Up to 650ft it appears to have been farmed on a ‘dog and stick’ system for years, but from the point of planting it should be quite straightforward. Unfortunately not really suitable for vines yet… Who know what will be growing up there in another hundred years, though?

Having suffered, like most, with the press paranoia surrounding this year’s virus, it is quite likely my feelings are being shared to a greater or lesser degree by everyone in my, so called, vulnerable age group. Most people one speaks to feel the steps taken to protect the population were good, yet the reaction of the tabloid papers has been very largely dishonest and incoherent.

They just seem determined to create fear of a virus which is not nearly as bad as Asian Flu in the late 1950s and certainly miniscule compared to the Spanish Flu 100 years ago. I lived through the Asian variety and I hardly remembered anything about it from press and radio; we all just got on with our daily lives. Those were the days when the media of the day generally reported facts and told the truth, rather than speculating, usually from their own politicised perspective. Today every headline or ‘lead’ story starts with the words “could” “might” or “maybe”; as opposed to “has” or “results show”. Too many of today’s journalist/newsreaders present the news from their own political angle. So the truth suffers.

The extent of general published lies and scares being put out is really appalling. It has stopped this household reading the papers or listening to news, beyond the first ‘half a minute’s’ headlines. It has also had the effect of persuading me to just get back to my normal life, and apart from not shaking hands or ‘hugging or kissing’ everyone, I am very happy to take my chances. Certainly there will be no face masks. I actually think that, along with many others, I had the virus in January. I certainly had a cough like never before.

We read many reports about the behaviour of ‘the public’ coming into the country for peace and privacy. I can only say, having opened the home farm up in the spring, for neighbours to walk ‘off footpath’, we have had no reports of it being abused. Everyone seemed appreciative and as a PR exercise I would recommend it; so long as there are no livestock or crops involved.

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