An Update from Leitfie
It is a busy time of year for Ben Baron at Leitfie Farms, with harvest well under way. Below are a few observations from Leitfie from August 2022.
Oilseed rape establishment
Ben establishes his oilseed rape following a one-year grass ley. His chosen method of establishment is to spray his grass off with glyphosate, before cutting it for silage or hay, leaving a short mat of dead grass to sow into. This way of establishing oilseed rape has allowed Ben to establish the crop early in the season without growing winter barley, while also providing productive short-term leys for cattle feed. Ben has found that the clover in the sward can withstand the application of glyphosate and grows in the bottom of the oilseed rape crop. Although the clover is not expected to fix much nitrogen when shadowed by the oilseed rape, is does provide a green cover on the soil once the oilseed rape is harvested. Furthermore, Ben has noticed that the short and spikey grass stubble provides a deterrent for pigeons trying to feed on his newly sown oilseed rape crop.
Figure 1 – Assessing the soil for the oilseed rape crop sown in to grass stubbles.
Cover crop establishment
As part of Ben’s Ecological Focus Area for Greening, he establishes cover crops after harvest, leaving them in situ until the new year. Ben uses his oilseed rape to provide a clean break for his crop of seed spring barley, giving an ideal early entry for a cover crop. Early sown cover crops are more likely to achieve a high biomass which will cover his soils all winter, until Ben is ready to sow his spring crop. Although oilseed rape is usually followed by a crop of wheat in many rotations, Ben has found that his wheat performs well after his beans. Due to the increase in his bean area, Ben has enough wheat on the farm and has opted to grow seed barley instead. Ben has sown a mix of mustard and vetch into the remaining clover and volunteer rape.
Figure 2 – EFA cover crop with mustard and vetch. Volunteer oilseed rape and clover also present.
Spring or winter beans
Ben currently grows both spring and winter beans. However, in previous years he has found it difficult to get winter bean seed delivered on farm before he is ready to sow the winter crop. This year, Ben is pleased with the way the spring beans look and is considering switching to spring beans so that he can guarantee that he will have the seed home in time. However, Ben is holding off deciding until he has combined the spring beans to make sure that the beans yield as well as he hopes.
Figure 3 – Spring beans beginning to senesce.