We’re experiencing a mild spell of weather this week. With bees buzzing round the hellebores in the garden and Blue Tits inspecting the refurbished bird house it’s not surprising my thoughts turn to Spring as well!
It’s too early in the year for Spring ground work down here on the Chichester plain but like most farmers at this time of year I get itchy feet to make a start. No doubt there will be some activity up on the Downs already as the chalk land drains much quicker than us and the malting barley growers will be keen to establish their crop.
We’re planting a new field of chamomile this year. Preparations began last Autumn when we ploughed the stubble in October. Leaving the ground ploughed over the winter allows the frost to get into the soil and produce a good tilth in the Spring. This doesn’t always happen these days as we don’t get the prolonged periods of frost that we used to. Once the ground dries and warms up in a few weeks’ time we’ll apply a dose of glyphosate to kill off the emerging weeds. We then lightly work the ground to create the best possible conditions for the tiny chamomile seed to germinate and grow away.
The use of glyphosate has come under the spotlight in recent years with calls for it to be banned as a carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that it probably was carcinogenic, the same as the danger they conclude comes from drinking hot beverages. On the other hand, the European Food Standards Agency has concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.
I’m not a scientist, although I did study Zoology at university many years ago, but I do know that glyphosate is an extremely useful tool in food production and in the care of the environment. Without it we would have to use gallons more diesel in cultivation to control weeds and rely far more heavily on ploughing, a technique we use more sparingly these days.