It is hard to know how this summer will turn out. An exceptionally wet autumn and winter completely prevented the establishment of autumn-sown crops at Loddington and other local farms. There was just about time to drill spring varieties in those fields where we needed to do so for research, or considered that it would still be economically viable to do so for our farm business. Then the drought hit.
By June, livestock farmers were searching around for additional grazing as pasture and leys withered, recalling memories of the prolonged drought just two years ago. Social media were scattered with posts from normally successful arable farmers sharing images of drought stressed crops and professing that the continuing weather uncertainties and extremes were now making it impossible to maintain a viable business. Recent rain has provided a reprieve by increasing surface soil moisture, at least for now.
|Loddington soil moiture deficit to June 2020, including the 2018 drought and exceptionally wet autumn/winter of 2019/20|
|Global warming potential of CO2 and N2O in compacted SoilCare project plots|
Monitoring of greenhouse gas flux in compacted soils as part of our contribution to the EU-funded SoilCare project reveals that carbon dioxide flux is higher in ploughed plots than in direct drilled plots. In these compacted conditions, nitrous oxide flux is higher in direct drilled plots. The amounts involved are very low, but because nitrous oxide has a global warming potential that is nearly 300 times that of carbon dioxide, the implications for climate change are that much greater. Looked at together, the global warming potential of greenhouse gases associated with ploughed and direct drilled plots is roughly equivalent. The additional emissions associated with multiple field operations in the ploughed plots mean that direct drilling has the lower impact.
|Mean Soil Organic Carbon from ten Water Friendly Farming project fields|