Saved by the Bell

Dear Kathryn,

Evaporation 21 to 27 February, 5-1, 3-4, 4-14, 3-12, 3-20, 3, ?-60 Until these last few days I was heading for the driest total to the end of February in 65 years of records. As it is, even with that 60mm, the total is about 5th driest. I’m afraid Richard Duckett gets this year’s Sinner of the Year award as the Fates only sent him 3mm, left over from my 60mm. Hard to take.

I think I mentioned that Peterhouse is reputed to have had 500mm in one day and most of you will have seen Karin Cocker’s photos of the main road flooded near the Anchor Ranch turn off between Munali Coffee and Munali hills. I really do think we are going to HAVE to change how we farm to make our crops more resilient to extreme weather. I won’t try to send it today (as my Internet connection is in a foul mood) but I have a photo of a field of Wiz Bignell’s soybeans. In the background, despite a terribly dry year, he has some zero-till soybeans that look FANTATSTIC. In the foreground is a strip where the sorghum stover was burned accidentally – the soybeans will probably only yield 1/4 of the rest of the field. Our success or failure in the future won’t depend on such dramatic differences; the successful farmers will just be consistently getting results 5% more profitable than the rest, and over time that 5% extra  will enable them to survive the tough years. Years like James Chance’s father had to survive – on 200 and 100mm total rainfall!

That Omnia presentation on the 18th March includes a session on reduced tillage and I will certainly be going to pester him for information on how we can do something similar with tobacco. It seems that zero-till works extremely well if one grows a varied cycle of ANNUAL crops….but I have yet to learn how to deal with the grass-ley. We plough it in and promptly undo all the good of the previous 3 or 4 years.

May this week bring you dam filling rains – I feel it is now or never. (If the dams DO fill we will be left with the dilemma of whether to irrigate or not. The power situation is likely to be worse this year than last year.) Bruce

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