The Farming Year
We attach a range of ‘cultivators’ to the tractors to prepare the soil for planting the seeds that will later grow into the crops we harvest.
This is also known as ‘sowing’ or ‘drilling’. The seeds are planted using a machine called a drill, which is mounted on to the tractor’s lift arms or pulled from the tractor’s drawbar. A tractor with a heavy set of Cambridge rolls will follow the drill, which helps to conserve the soil moisture.
Nutrition from our crops comes from both organic manure (from bedding down our animals during the winter) and granular (bagged) fertiliser. The organic manure is spread with a Muck Spreader – it can hold up to 15 tonnes! The fertiliser spreader has a large hopper which can hold up to 3 tonnes. A computer inside the spreader controls how the fertiliser is released, making sure that it is spread evenly across the crops. It can also be connected to a GPS system on the tractor so that different areas of the field have different amounts of fertiliser applied. You would usually do this if the soil type in the field varies.
To produce crops that yield consistently, we need to protect them from pests, diseases and weeds. To do this, we apply products known as pesticides using sprayers. They can hold up to 4,000 litres of water in a tank, which the pesticide is added to. It mixes with the water and is pushed through high tech nozzles by a pump.
Also known as combining, the final phase is to harvest all of the crops. The combine harvester machine we use is the largest machine on our arable farm. It cuts the stalks, then uses a number of processes to separate the seeds from the straw. It then compacts the straw into bales, each weighing up to 500kg. These are stacked on to trailers and moved to the barn using a telehandler.
The Future Challenge
The world population is forecast to increase to 9 billion people by 2050 – that’s a lot of food to produce!
This provides a number of challenges:
– There is little extra farmable land now available
– Some land which is currently farmed is becoming unproductive due to climate change
– The amount of water available for growing crops (and drinking!) is limited
– Fossil fuels that drive our tractors, supply our fertiliser and sprays etc are going to become more limited and expensive
Despite this, it’s a great time to be a farmer. Those who are open to new ideas and prepared to engage with the public can stand to have a very bright future indeed. By embracing new technology in plant breeding, productivity and renewable energy sources, these challenges can be overcome.
Henson & Andrews
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Arable side of the business, you can download our information pack.