Farmer Focus – Andy Howard

Clean Slate

Harvest has been and gone and was fairly straight forward here in Kent, all bar the Linseed came in dry. Harvest ended well with the Linseed and the Lentils performing well, previous to them it was a real mixed bag. Glad to being starting with a clean slate for harvest 2021. I had my local wildlife officer ring me the other day asking whether I thought our Regenerative practices had given us more yield compared to others. It is a difficult question to answer but my reply was: “probably not, but it cost me less to get the yields we achieved, our soils are in good heart and so don’t need a lot of expensive remediation. This is unlike others who planted in adverse conditions last autumn and have been left with compaction and ruts”.

Any soil damage we have is near the surface and we currently have catch crops or cover crops growing to repair the damage. I managed to plant a mix of strong rooting plants on our bare patches on June 19 once we had moisture. You can be seen in the picture they have rooted to a good depth. One of the lessons I learnt from last autumn is that we need catch crops growing before and second wheats or winter beans at least. I kept hearing others say their best establishment of later crops were planted on volunteers or catch crops. As we don’t have the labour to follow the combine with the drill I had to think of other options of getting catch crops established. After much searching and deliberation, I found a secondhand Autocast unit for our combine which was fitted just in time before harvest.(See picture)

Autocasting needs moisture which is something that was lacking at harvest and for a couple of weeks after. For a while I thought my new idea was going to fail. Luckily towards the end of August it rained and now we have a crop. It is current small at the time of writing but still has over a month to go. (See picture) This year I planted a 10-way mix and I will assess to see what grows and doesn’t. First out the blocks have been Buckwheat and Linseed, quickly followed by Phacelia and Berseem Clover.  

We did manage to get some catch crops drilled after Winter Barley and these are growing well. These are growing before another Winter Barley crop and the hope is that the catch crop will break disease cycle and add some diversity. (See picture)

All covers have been planted and are growing well, grass seed is just poking through so now we have a few weeks before we start planting more winter crops. A few quiet weeks will be appreciated as the last 12 months have seemed a bit relentless. I think we all need some time to relax and recuperate. Here’s hoping 2021 is an improvement!