In order to get Elwell ready for winter wheat it has already had one dose of herbicides, two lots of cultivation, and one dose of organic (in the scientific, not Soil Association sense) manure. We are now halfway through.
The next step is to boost nutrient levels in the soil further with a fertiliser containing phosphate and potash. This will give the seedling wheat a strong headstart so it can better fight off attack by pests such as slugs. Both phosphate and potash are found in naturally occurring rock deposits which are mined and then purified to produce agricultural fertilisers.
This was then mixed into the soil by lightly cultivating it with a ‘cultivator and press’. This implement consists of two parts – a spring tine harrow, which breaks up larger lumps, and a flexicoil roller, which is a sort of spring-shaped roller which gently presses the soil to squash the smaller lumps.
Having now carried out SIX separate processes, the field can finally be planted. Elwell was ‘drilled’, which means that the seed is poked into the soil rather than just being dropped on top of the ground. This gives it a better start and protects it against animals such as birds and mice that might eat the grain. You can learn more here. Seed was planted at 60kg/acre.
But that isn’t the end of it! The final stage uses a ‘heavy roller (‘flat roller’) to compact the soil. By the end the surface was really quite smooth.
This serves three purposes. It
- ensures that all the seeds are fully in contact with the soil so that they are able to absorb moisture and germinate.
- retains moisture by reducing the surface area of soil exposed to the air.
- deters slugs as the air spaces they would crawl about in are eliminated. This protects the sprouting seeds: otherwise slugs may eat them before the shoot even emerges from the soil.