Summer 2007The weather over the past few months has continued to be extremely changeable with very dry periods in mid April dispersed with wet periods in March and May.The wheat crop advanced quickly during early spring and if the weather improves it looks as though we will have a very early harvest. Brown rust has been a particular problem within the crop. This is a concern considering that the variety we grow (Robigus) has a high resistance rating to the disease. The oilseed rape fields have now finished flowering. The area damaged by slugs at the bottom of one of the fields never recovered despite further seed being broadcast in the bare areas in October. The spring beans were finally sown about a month later than last year on the 6th April because of excessively wet start to March. Germination and growth has been good so far but the leaves are now beginning to show the familiar notching from pea and bean weevils.
We have just re-sown a hectare block of set-aside with a mixture of winter triticale, barley and linseed. This is the same block that last winter held over 400 Linnets, 100 Yellowhammer and 12 Corn bunting. The ELS grass margins were sown in April around a couple of fields. Early germination was poor due to the dry weather, but following the heavy rain in May, they are beginning to recover. We will be looking to cut the margins as soon as possible to control the high numbers of annual weeds but currently the ground is too wet and the grass too vulnerable. Fusilade was applied to the SAFFIE margins in May, to remove the course grasses whilst leaving the finer ones. This is in preparation for the start of the grass margin trial next spring.
At the start of March, we planted 5 new apple trees in the orchard. The varieties chosen were St. Everard and Barnack Beauty, both desert; Green Harvey a dual use apple and Morley's Seedling and Cottenham Seedling, both culinary. These are all old Cambridgeshire varieties selected from the East of England Apples and Orchards Project.
Bird numbersWith seven of the breeding bird surveys complete, it is looking a promising year. For the second year running, we have recorded lapwing. Three birds have been seen regularly on one of the spring beans fields. Unfortunately, we have yet to confirm breeding. Skylark territories from the seven surveys, are estimated at 26, grey partridge 3, yellow wagtail 2 and starling 13 but final figures are likely to be higher once we have completed the survey season by the end of June. Starling success this year has been mixed with several broods failing at both egg and chick stage. We will be able to give a full update later in the year.