Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Norfolk Four Course Rotation (1950's at college)

All the young farm college students will laugh me off this page, because there does not seem to be such a thing as a full rotation these days. It seems a rotation for pests and diseases, and that's all. What you young un's must understand that there is a rotation to cope with weeds, mostly annual weeds.

These are what build up in arable land into a "seed bank" this needs a break and a rest for a few years in grass. We were learned the basic rotation devised by "Turnip Townshend" back in the 18th century, Roots , Barley, Seeds (two or three years), and Wheat.

Not all these old ideas can be rubbished off hand, and could well be adapted to suit the modern farming methods. You need to assess how much nitrogen can be "fixed" by a good two year stand of predominantly a red clover/grass mix, clover left to mature and flower into a tall crop of hay/silage, has a tremendous root system with the accompanying nitrogen fixing nodules, bigger the top growth the bigger the roots.

In years gone by there was no bagged fertiliser, and this method improved output and yield, only now a tittle of nitrogen on top of the above idea could well would match many of the modern yields of today. The moral of this story is to cut costs, i.e. nitrogen and not plant second wheat's.

Now oilseed rape will cover as a root crop in this rotation, and to those who have never heard of it, under sow the barley with the grass / clover mixture. Time the seeding right and a bit of good fortune with the weather, and you soon get the hang of a good rotation saving on sprays as well.

Norfolk Four Course Rotation (1950's at college)

At farming college we were told, how important it was to learn,
The basic four coarse rotation, good yields and a living to earn,
Roots Barley Seeds and Wheat, it kept the ground in good heart,
This was the basic rotation, from which to make a good start.

Roots you hoed around until, the leaves met in the row,
Smother any smaller weeds, nowhere for them to grow,
Always left a good clean field, and always in good heart,
Next crop had the benefit, of getting a jolly good start.

Spring barley follows the roots, too strong a land and it will soon go flat,
Drilled in March when the soil warms, an even plant stand begat,
Under sown with grass and red clover, establishing the best
Docks were pulled and thistles ‘spudded', first crop for to harvest.

The seeds grow on, once barley's cut, light sheep graze in back end,
It tillers and bulks tremendously, for winter feed depend,
Red clover with its vigorous growth, its roots beneath to match,
Fixes fertility down in the soil, from side to side of the patch.

If you graze the seeds and keep it low, doesn't produce the roots,
Fertility from the sun to leaves, only small leaves stems and shoots,
Mown for hay grown to maturity, for two years if you can,
Will give you a wheat crop you never had, at least that's the plan.

When the hays been cleared, and a fresh good cover of green,
Plough it in, green manure, the clover roots have been,
To fix the Nitrogen in the nodules, best crop of wheat you've seen,
No sprays or artificial needed, to return to a proper rotation I'm keen.

Organically speaking, this is the way, make the sun and the leaves,
Draw the goodness naturally; a shower of rain receives,
Plants are working how they ought to, compliment each other,
A good plant stand, and big broad leaves, weeds you hope to smother.


I was fortunate in that my father helped me set up on my own 96 acre rented farm, and helped in that I could "borrow " odd thing and machinery from time to time. I started with 26 milking cows, and he let me make my own mistakes, as he said you learn quicker that way, particularly if it hits you in the pocket.

But I have known a lot who have worked for or with there fathers, and have had to wait years before they are allowed to take the "reigns"

It's a Fifty Year Apprenticeship

The farmers still a learner, till his eyes begin to blear,
Apprenticeship under the old man, for at least fifty years,
Ruled in turn by his father, the old ways are always best,
What bit of money he ever made, in land he must invest.

From round the kitchen table, the orders given out,
What to grow and sell and buy, and what to do without,
Frugel's what you call it, but he always has last say,
All his life, make do and mend, only time for work, no play.

Seventy five is just about when; he says he's had enough,
Say to the young ones now, in their fifties, now its tough,
Modernize and hit the cheque book, let's get up to date,
First time after all these years, they say it's never too late.


Old ideas and old ways have a habbit of being re-invented, so try to keep some old ideas in the back of your mind, they may come in handy some day.
I have'nt got a patent or a copy right on this page so print all the copies you like I dont mind.
Ideas have to be planted, before they can come into fruition.

The definition of a weed --- A weed is just a plant out of place.

1 comment: