October on the Farm (2019)

Monthly notes on farming activities in and around Sulgrave have now been appearing on this website for two years. The author of these fascinating and informative notes is Richard Fonge, seen above in his role as commentator at Kenilworth Agricultural Show. From 1947 until 1975, Richard farmed with his father at Stuchbury Manor Farm. He then embarked on a long and varied career as a Farm Manager, the last 25 years of which was spent managing a farm at Kenilworth. He retired in 2010 and returned to live in Sulgrave. Richard was recently elected Chairman of Sulgrave Parish Council.

Richard’s Notes for October:

October has been so far a wet month, with showers and heavy rain. This has resulted in no wheat or indeed any other crop being planted. Wheat can be sown if conditions are right throughout the winter, but for barley and oats it is now too late and fields to be sown with these crops will have to wait until spring. The fields up the concrete road have been cultivated, this is when a set of tines and discs have been drawn through the ground, thereby disturbing the soil and breaking up the stubble residue from the previous crop, and in this particular case incorporating the lime that has been applied.

Lime as you will perhaps remember from my first notes is needed to keep the P.H. of the soil at the correct level. With G.P.S. being a part of all tractors, and the soil being tested for its nutrient values regularly it means that the lime in this case is applied at the correct rate to all parts of the field. It may be at two tonnes per acre down to zero. Therefore our satellite has a saving on inputs in many situations and the soil gets the required amount.

On the Stuchbury footpath in the field above the grass, different cultivations have taken place. The first third of the field has been planted grass, then we have a rough cultivated piece followed by our strip of wheat and then finally a strip of sanfoin. These two strips and the grass are part of an environmental scheme.

Up Barrow Hill the new crops will be drilled directly into the bean stubble, an alternative way of establishing a crop. The barrow at the top is now covered with grass and general vegetation after the eviction of the Badgers a few years ago. Badgers are much more prolific than they used to be partly due to the amount of maize being grown in and around the parish, with most of it being grown to create energy through anaerobic digesters. There is also the definite connection between tuberculosis in cattle and the badger, a contentious and sometimes emotive debate that has raged for many years. This year there have been two outbreaks in cattle in the area, resulting in the immediate slaughter of those infected animals. Regulations dictate that fields have to be empty for sixty days before restocking, so that is the reason for the absence of cattle in the usual fields. I hope and pray that these herds go clear at their next test for T.B. These are very worrying and stressful times for all concerned.

Finally I had the pleasure of judging a Farm Environmental Competition in the north Banbury area recently, and it is very encouraging to see the unheralded environmental work that is being done.

Richard Fonge



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