Let us spray
Shooting Times & Country|March 18, 2020
It is vital to protect crops and this must govern your decisions out in the field, says Liam Bell
Liam Bell

Last year was particularly tough for establishing game cover. The incessant rain and lower than average temperatures in May and June made for difficult conditions.

Germination was poorer than expected, growth was sporadic and a lot of early vigour was lost as the plants struggled with the conditions. Most of us managed to grow a crop of sorts, but it was rare to find a keeper who was satisfied with how they had grown.

Bigger flushes on shoot days and problems running birds on to flushing points, coupled with poorer general holding cover and fewer seeds in the feed-bearing crops, made things difficult. As much as we would like to put last year’s growing season behind us and move on, it is important that we look at its knock-on effects and deal with them now before we start this season’s drilling.

I’d start with testing the soil, simply because it is something you can make a start on without having to wait for the ground to dry out. There is little point in doing anything else until it does dry — and certainly not with machines or you will damage the soil structure further and make any compaction worse.

Funnel

This year I asked one of our beaters — who has conveniently started working for a firm that trades in feed, seeds and fertilizers — to do the testing for me. He popped across with his sample bags and with what can best be described — to those who haven’t seen a sample taker — as a funnel on a stick. He walked the crops in a series of “W” shapes to balance the sample out, pushing his funnel in and bagging up and labelling as he went.

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