March 2003

The View from the Hill March 2003

More on cropping in Durweston.

Last time we covered wheat and barley, this month we will look at oats, rape and beans.

We are growing oats again this year, although sadly not the sort which will end up in your cereal bowl, only naked oats, which are a specialist crop, used in race horse feed and other exacting diets, as well as a growing use in the essential oils market, for cosmetics and health foods for example.  The field called the Park, along the road to Bryanston is growing oats this year.

From harvest 2002, we still have in store some conventional oats, which were grown under a Conservation grade for Jordans, the muesli bar people, so perhaps some have ended up back in Dorset, sadly for us they have now changed their policy so that they will only buy oats from areas nearer to their factory in Biggleswade.

Oilseed rape is an old favourite.  People seem to love it or hate it, that lovely bright yellow stuff which bees love when it’s flowering.  Our rape is a spring sown variety, which we will sow near the end of March.  It grows slowly at first, when it is very vulnerable to insect attack, but once the soil warms up, it grows incredibly fast, and is usually ready for harvest in early September.  It mostly goes to a crusher where the oil is extracted to be used in margarine, cooking oil, paints or a host of other uses.  For the last few years we have also grown some spring rape for seed, for other farmers to sow.

Beans are a bit of a Cinderella crop, very sensitive to the amount of rain during the growing season.  Last year they were spectacular, thanks to the huge amounts of rain in May and June, which spoiled most of the other crops.  In a very dry summer, they can be disastrous.  We try to grow good quality crops, which can be exported to Arab countries for human consumption, apparently they are a very popular food there.  Lower quality crops go into animal feed.  In some years they can be very late to harvest, making it more difficult to get the following crop of wheat established in good time.

Finally, we are returning to Linseed for a second attempt, after several years off after a poor first time in 1999.  It has lovely blue flowers, but can be a pig to cut at harvest time.  The seed will hopefully be sold for other farmers to use as seed if we can get good enough quality.  Sown in early April, and harvested in September, it has a pretty short growing season.

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