Saturday, 20 November 2010

Cutting the Mustard

A week or so ago we came across these two deer in a field of agricultural mustard. In this case, we are told, the crop is intended as a green manure and will be ploughed in. Broadly speaking, the traditional crop rotation in the Touraine is to plant one third of the land with winter wheat in the autumn, to be harvested for bread flour early in the following summer; one third would be planted in the spring with animal feed, to be harvested in the late summer; and one third would be left fallow. I'm not sure how much the modern farms vary from these traditional practices in terms of the timing and speed of the rotations, but certainly crop rotation is taken very seriously as a means of controlling pests and diseases. Green manures are also clearly popular, and help particularly with erosion (many Tourangelle fields are sloping or undulating and therefore at risk of soil washing away).

Apparently deer are madly fond of canola and mustard flowers. This pair were wary, but unwilling to move on, even when we stopped the car to take photos out the window. They were perhaps 20m away, and continued to graze whilst keeping one eye on us. Although it is hunting season here, they were surprisingly unbothered by our presence. Who would have thought mustard flowers were worth risking your life for?



Jean said...

Lovely photo. We have seen a lot of deer this year but they don't usually hang around long enough for us to take their picture. As you say, the flowers must have been very tempting and maybe other foods are getting less available. (I know nothing at all about deer except that they are both very beautiful and very tasty, a concept that I find sometimes hard to reconcile.)

Sheila said...

I actually did LOL when that
photo popped up. We have many
white-tailed here, and they are
usually happy to graze on our
lawn while keeping an eye on us
if we're outside. A friend puts
a bucket of water out for them,
and the other morning the water
was frozen. A doe and her fawn
wanted a drink but couldn't get
through the ice, so mama kicked
the bucket over. That broke the
water loose, and they were able
to drink as the water trickled
out. Pretty smart!

Tim said...

Richard Dechartes plants winter wheat [which we have outside La Forge at the moment], followed by either maize or sunflower [both for oil he told us.... and dependant on market prices], followed by rape [colza] also for oil, then the reverse of crop two, then back to winter wheat. Each stage is given copious amounts of fumier from Grandmont [up on the hill opposite] which is ploughed in immediately before sowing. The only period of fallow[ish] lying is between the winter wheat/rape cycles and the maize/sunflower cycles as the harvest for the first is later than the sowing of the second. In this case we've noticed that a pre-winter dressing of manure is ploughed in, as if a new crop is about to be sown, followed by another load before sowing [M.Salais at Grandmont is an 'indoor' dairy herd for the greater part of the year - as is La Borde on the opposite side of the road up there... hence the copious amounts of fumier available.]
The gap between the sunflowers outside the house this year and resowing with winter wheat was just over six weeks. The gap was non-existant between harvesting the maize and re-sowing... fumier going on two days after they'd finished and sowing taking place the following week. Given the grain shortage this year, I thinks the Dechartes are going for an early grain harvest!!

Amanda said...

Sweet story Sheila!
PS : the cranes stopped in the South of France too.

Anna Johnston said...

I think it'd be really good if a lot of Aussie farmers took crop rotation more seriously, we have awful scars on the earth from not looking after it with our broad acre farming huh.

Susan said...

Sheila: Lovely story - it's nice when you get to interact with wildlife like that.

Tim: A big thank you for this detailed info. I was sure the rotation cycle had speeded up, and this has really clarified it for me. I feel a further blog post coming on...:-)

Nadège: JP's photo is fantastic, but is it taken in a zoo or something? It's not a European species, but an African one.

Anna: I don't think lack of crop rotation is the problem in Australia. I think deep ploughing and over use of artificial fertilizers and trying to grow crops on marginal land where you have to rely on irrigation are all much more significant.

Tim said...

Susan... the Crowned Crane must be captive... if you look at the right wing in the photo it appears to have been clipped!

Susan said...

Tim: yes, I think it must be captive, but he doesn't give any details of when and where.

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