Environmental and Crop awards.

November 20, 2016

Gloucestershire Root Fruit & Grain Society 2016

The Gloucestershire Root Fruit and Grain Society which is very much alive today, had an exciting start.  Back in 1863 two farmers came to blows in Gloucester Market, each claiming to grow better crops than the other. A peacemaker suggested that specimens be brought to Gloucester where independent judges would pronounce. The event attracted crowds of interested farmers and from it the society was born. In the early years annual shows were held at the Corn Exchange, but during the Second World War farmers could not take their produce to Gloucester so the judges went to the farms, receiving special allocations of petrol in the interests of food producing. http://www.grfgs.com/index.php

R S Chew trophy

R S Chew trophy

RN Padfield & Sons have long been supporters of the society and the oldest prize certificate we can still find in the cabinet  is the award for best wheat crop in 1950.

1950 Wheat 1st Prize

It was a privilege to be awarded first prize in the medium farm class for the ‘Best Farmed Farm’ and to follow this with the RS Chew Trophy for the best hedges, fences and ditches this year at the award evening at Gloucester Rugby Club on the 18th November 2016.  The RS Chew Trophy is a prize cup dating back to 1899.

1959 certificate

1959 certificate

Interestingly the recognition for our environmental work builds on being awarded a commendation in the FWAG Silver Pintail Farming and Wildlife award in 2015 in recognition of the farm’s commitment to sustainable agricultural practices and wildlife protection.

fwag commendation

fwag commendation

In our tenth year of no- till agriculture we are pleased that we are still achieving good crops, and whilst we did not hit the top spot, we are proud of third place for the Oil Seed Rape crop and third for the most profitable wheat crop.

Red List Bird Species found at The Hawthorns

December 11, 2012

Following from the previous article which provided an introduction to the RSPB Volunteer and Farmer Alliance Project 2012 at The Hawthorns, this report is going to review some of the Red List Bird Species identified during the survey.  The Red status birds are those of high conservation concern and are species which have undergone more than a 50% decline in UK breeding population or range over the last 25 years, a historical decline from 1800-1995, or are species of global conservation concern. The RSPB also uses the amber status and green status lists but the species that cause most concern are those on the red list.

Ten Red status birds were identified at The Hawthorns during the survey.

The list comprises of:

Cuckoo, Dunlin, House sparrow, Lapwing, Linnet, Skylark, Song thrush, Starling, Yellow wagtail, Cirl bunting and Yellowhammer.

One of the reasons to account for the range of bird species on the farm is that many species rely on well-managed hedgerows and scrub habitats. Wide field margins are vital for birds to find insects to feed their young in spring and summer. The margins here at The Hawthorns demonstrate an excellent insect source through the number of species present, notably the whitethroat (amber species), yellowhammer (red species) and the willow warbler (amber species).

It was exciting to note that lapwings (or peewits, as they are sometimes called) which are red species were present on the farm. Lapwings look black and white at a distance but in good light it can be seen that they have a greeny purple sheen on their back. The male is characterised by having a spiky crest on his head.  In the breeding season lapwings prefer spring sown cereals, root crops, permanent unimproved pasture, meadows and fallow fields. They can also be found on wetlands with short vegetation.

Linnets were shown and briefly discussed in the last article about the RSPB Volunteer and Farmer Alliance Project 2012. They also belong to the red status bird list. The male linnet has a pinky patch on his head and breast during the breeding season. They are very dependent on seeds and even feed seeds to their small chicks. Oil seed rape which is grown on the farm provides a major food source for these birds and fallow areas can also form valuable seed sources. Wild bird seed cover which can be found on the farm is also enjoyed by these birds. Linnets like to nest in areas of scrub or thorny hedges which includes brambles.

The pictures shown here are again taken from the RSPB website.

Farmland Birds at The Hawthorns

September 20, 2012

The Hawthorns took part in the RSPB Volunteer and Farmer Alliance Project 2012 this summer. This was undertaken by a local RSPB volunteer and provided a survey of the birds breeding on the farm. The project began in 1999 and now over 6,000 farms in the country have been surveyed providing a wealth of information to the RSPB and farmers. The RSPB volunteer is provided with training so that the surveys can be conducted with confidence and then carries out three or four early morning surveys between April and June.

The RSPB volunteer called at the farm one evening to discuss the area of the farm, studied maps and took advice as to where the most habitat rich locations were situated. He then outlined that he would be undertaking three or four (very) early morning surveys. After each survey we would be provided with a species list of birds spotted that day. At the end of the survey period the results would be analysed and a map produced showing the location and behaviour of the birds seen throughout the project. The results are made available for conservation purposes and help contribute towards the Bird Conservation Targeting Project (BCTP) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) atlas.

To date results have shown that Environmental Stewardship for birds has resulted in a drop in the decline for farmland species in the local area.

It was encouraging to see that some of the bird species were seen and heard on all of the four survey visits this included Blackbirds, Blackcaps, Blue tits, Buzzards, Carrion Crows, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Great tits, Greylag Geese, Lapwings ,Linnets, Mallards, Robins, Skylarks, Stock Doves, Swallows, Whitethroats, Wood pigeons, Wrens and Yellowhammers.

The RSPB website is very useful and can help you identify birds by using the following web link http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdidentifier/form.aspx

Here is a brief overview of some of the species noted above.

Blackcaps

Male                                                      Female

Blackcaps are more or less resident in this area of the country. They tend to favour sites that have woodland and dense undergrowth including areas of scrub. The male Blackcap has a particularly attractive song.

Chaffinch

Male                                                      Female

The chaffinch is one of the most common birds found in Britain and Ireland; nevertheless it is still a joy to see around the farm. It is able to live in a wide range of habitats and can often be heard if not seen.

Chiffchaff

Chiffchaffs are quite small birds, usually being about 11cm in length. They are most distinguishable by their song and their dark coloured legs. Chiffchaffs like habitats with trees and shrubs.

Linnets

Male                                                        Female

Male linnets acquire pinky patches on their head and breast during the breeding season but loses the colour in the winter months. They belong to the finch family and are a common resident in this area.

Whitethroats

Male                                                      Female

The whitethroat can often be seen between May and September and is characteristic of scrub, hedgerows and bramble covered ares. They eat insects and berries and overwinter in Africa.

The pictures shown here were taken from the RSPB website. The results here form a small part of the RSPB Volunteer and Farmer Alliance Project 2012 at The Hawthorns. More information on the bird survey and species identified on the farm will be released in a short time.

Claydon Straw Rake to Improve Weed and Slug Control?

August 7, 2012

The past five years have been a great learning curve for us in how to direct drill crops and avoid moving too much soil.  In fact it is the complete opposite of the previous farming system where the plough was used to move top 6-9 inches of soil across the whole field.  Some farmers refer to direct drilling as ‘zero tilling’ though it does depend on the drill used.  The following two links are useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-till_farming and http://no-tillalliance.co.uk/#.

The decision not to invert the soil does lead to problems with what to do with the crop residue left after combining, particularly in Oil Seed Rape where the straw was baled.

Crop residue after harvest

Crop residue after harvest

In wet years slugs can rapidly multiply under the straw and stubble left behind.  Slugs can cause massive damage to young plants or even crop failure.  Control is mainly achieved through using slug pellets though rolling the seedbed after drilling will help. A second problem is trying to get weed seed to chit so that they can be controlled.

Slug in crop residue

Slug in crop residue

Straw harrowing is a fast and very low cost operation that can be used just once or a number of times to create a micro-tilth for fast weed germination, hoe out weeds and kill slugs before drilling whilst retaining the moisture, organic matter and structure in the soil.  The picture below is the first time the rake is used on the farm.

New rake being used on Oil Seed Rape Stubble after baling

New rake being used on Oil Seed Rape Stubble after baling

The aim is to move the residue, and create enough tilth for weed seeds to germinate. The harrow levels straw and damages slug nests and their eggs, moving straw trash and drying out the slug nests

The harrow encourages weed seeds to germinate at the top of the soil, giving fast & even germination and a great kill strike rate from re-harrowing or spraying.  Below shows the split in the field where the rake has been used and has still to pass.

Rake pass moves the crop residue

Rake pass moves the crop residue

We hope the rake will result in a relatively cheap way of reducing the cost of slug and weed control.

Adding Value To Locally Produced Oilseed Rape

March 19, 2012

Oilseed Rape is a very useful break crop grown by British farmers.  The yellow flowering plant is very distinctive, making large patches of yellow in the countryside in the late Spring and early Summer.  The oilseeds are stored on farm and then sent for processing.  The oil produced can be used in products such as biodiesel or used for cooking (R-Oil is a local well known brand).  It is important when storing OSR to achieve the right temperature (between 5 – 8 degrees Celcius), moisture (between 7  – 9 percent) and less than 2 percent admixture. The HGCA produce an excellent summary – ‘Grain storage guide for cereals and oilseeds‘.   However the process of storing OSR starts far earlier than achieving the right conditions in store.

OSR is usually desiccated whilst in the field.  This ensures that the crop dies off at the same time so should result in an even, dry, ripe field to harvest with the combine.  The combine should be set up to remove most of the straw, pods and weed seeds so that when the OSR arrives to be sampled before going into storage it has less than 2 percent admixture.  Sampling trailers is difficult due to access problems and ensuring a representative sample is obtained.  OSR testing and drying equipment is expensive and therefore a grant was applied for and awarded.

Project part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development 2007-2013: Europe investing in rural areas

A grant was received to assist towards the OSR sampling, testing and drying equipment.  The project was delivered through the South West of England Development Agency with Defra as the Managing Authority.

OSR sampling on intake

Each year the facilities and the protocols and procedures are inspected and certificated by NSF-CMI under the GTAS Scheme.

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