Date: 09/2022

The drought of summer 2018 saw parched land across the United Kingdom and in the past year, whilst not as long lasting, the smashing of high temperature records across the land shows these wild events continue to frequently disrupt our cropping plans. Our Grass Breeding Station near Banbury is located in some of the driest grass growing areas of the UK and it was especially so this August, which saw a miserly 4.5mm rain throughout the month compared to a (relatively) abundant 45mm in August 2018. Such a huge disruption essentially put a stop to harvest of all but the most sun-loving species in the testing program and a long wait to sow new trials.

Thankfully some showers in late August enabled us to make good seed-beds and with all the thousands of seed-packets weighed, plot drills calibrated and staff on standby we completed all new sowings. From then the most anxious time of the breeding programme begins, hoping for good weather to allow the young seedlings to establish. After the first seven days of no sign of life things looked worrying, by the tenth it seemed disastrous. Despite some mild showers and heavy downpours, it looked to be a total failure. However one morning a faint tinge of green appeared and now Church Ground field is back to a lush carpeting of new grass. I hope for those of you sowing this autumn it has also gone well.

Growth response to the cool autumn conditions has naturally varied between species in our yield plot trials but still necessitates a mad rush to cut everything all at once to get a good fresh start for the rest of the year. Perennial ryegrass in particular has again shown its resilience and gained two tons of dry matter in only a couple of weeks.