Farmer Focus – George Sly

And Breathe….. a much better year

After 2019 and 2020, I think we can all agree 2021 has been a much happier time to be farming. Prices are good, yields were ok to good, the autumn has been very kind, autumn establishment cracking, smiles all round in the Sly Family, turkey is on the menu again this Christmas

Agroforestry update:

We harvested the annual alleys in our agroforestry field for the first time this year. We drilled explorer spring barley on 24m alleys in between the hazels and walnuts. We had a pleasing yield and made malting spec with the barley, I must admit we had to be very careful with spraying and we will have to be very vigilant for the first 4-5 years. It’s strange, but having a field with 12 X 24m alleys automatically makes you ‘experiment more’ in terms of trying different things in each alley. We did 3 trials, which I will discuss further later on.

Overall, the agroforestry so far has been very successful, the AB8 strips have established well, the trees have largely survived year 1. We have lost 4 walnut trees (from 240) to hares/ deer and just under 25 Hazelnuts (from 600). Given the March planting date I am happy with that and we have learnt a lot. In terms of time in the field consumed by the trees, we have walked the tree rows twice in an 11 month period and mowed the AB8 twice. Overall on this 16 hectare field, that has consumed 27 man hours. The walking was to check / fix guards, log on a tablet any dead / suffering trees and hand weed anything that’s troubling in the AB8 strips. As of yet we haven’t applied any pesticide to the tree rows. 

When we planted the trees, we did apply some muck / mulch and Leonardite as a soil conditioner. We have another 16 hectares to plant December 2021 / January 2022 and then in 2022 / 2023 winter a further 40 hectares. This will bring us close to 2500 trees. We will begin planting some timber as well as nut trees in 2023 as long term projections look very attractive.

I do LOVE having the mix of perennial and annual plants in the same field, everything is yet to be proven, but somehow it just feels right for the future.