This is a guest post from LEAF member Ian Gould of Oakbank Game and Conservation Ltd. He had received a number of calls from people experiencing the same problem, with this post he hopes to provide some sound advice for those struggling in one of the driest springs on record.
This spring has been a difficult, sometimes impossible one for establishing Spring Crops, including seed mixes for your ELS and HLS Schemes. Growers have an obligation to do their best to establish an eligible mix containing 3 small seeds, but what does this mean in reality when Mother Nature seems determined to thwart every attempt?
As I write this we are at the beginning of June and in Eastern England we had experienced the driest spring on record, locally we have only had 18mm of rain since March 1st. Seed beds are bone dry, some are rock hard and there is little prospect of producing a seedbed worthy of that name. However, all is not yet lost and if Wimbledon has its usual effect on the British weather, rain is on the way! Just when we will get enough of the wet stuff remains to be seen and this is crucial for growers decision making. There are still several options available for planting in good conditions in June, but as we get into July, these options start to reduce and we are then choosing between “Rescue Crops” (Mustard, Fodder Radish, etc).
So what can growers do in the next few weeks, if the conditions improve? At Oakbank we believe that all the Millets, Grain Sorghum, Kale, Fodder Radish, Mustard, Buckwheat, Phacelia and Quinoa can still be effectively used in June sowings. Our Gamemix 109 is a combination that would meet ELS regulations and can be sown until the end of this month. It has Reed Millet for structure and cover, White Millet, Buckwheat, Phacelia, Mustard and Fodder Radish. Phacelia is not really in the mix for any seed value, but it does provide a very useful source of late nectar for the bees. Growers could add some Kale to this mix if they wish, it would certainly be fine sown as late as the end of June.
I spoke to Geoff Howe from Natural England about the situation in Eastern England, he was obviously very aware of the problems that growers are facing. “Growers should do what they can to comply with their obligations for ELS,” said Geoff “and they should keep evidence of what they have done, keeping their Natural England office informed through a derogation request if they have had to vary from scheme rules. No-one is asking farmers to do the impossible, just to try their best. The key thing is to still try to grow seed bearing crops that will feed birds this winter” he added.
Don’t waste time and money putting seed in just in-case it rains, wait until conditions improve sufficiently to give the seeds a real fighting chance. Keep in touch with your seed supplier, get sound advice when the time comes and make a good choice to achieve the best result possible.
Further scheme guidance can be found in the ELS/OELS scheme handbooks, online at:
- http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/farming/funding/es/els/usefuldocuments.aspx (ELS Handbooks)
- http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/farming/funding/es/oels/usefuldocumentsoels.aspx (OELS Handbooks)
Oakbank Game and Conservation Ltd