Time to Reflect – An Overview of the Season

With another keenly participated shooting season behind us, we take a look upfront and behind the scenes at the successes and disappointments – and challenges posed. We look too at how next season is shaping up in terms of impending legislation and game cover options.

With legislation such as general licensing, the new agriculture bill, seed treatments and lead shot on the agenda, there is plenty to think about.


A Challenging Season

As is often the case, the 2019-20 season had to overcome a multitude of challenges, often in difficult conditions.

Perhaps most notable – and as patriotic Brits it is something we feel the need to embrace – was the unpredictable and unforgiving weather. We experienced a very hot dry spring and summer, followed by an extremely wet winter – never ideal for crop establishment or, if crops are able to establish, for them to maintain a strong standing through the winter.

Due to the dryness of the spring and summer, the past season seemed particularly difficult in terms of crop establishment. With seedbeds struggling to retain moisture, and then rain not coming until much later, many crops ended up sitting and not moving until later than usual or starting to grow and then stopping again. This presented the opportunity for flea beetle or pigeons to attack the crop, particularly brassicas.

However, it is important to observe that it was by no means all bad and those who were able to get their crops established did well. Tropical plant varieties, such as maize and sorghum, enjoyed the dry weather and the warmth once established and when they caught the rain at the right time were fantastic. Likewise, despite being difficult to get away, once brassicas were established they had a good winter – with a big canopy to keep the birds dry.

Much of this points to the advice we emphasise to customers every year: the importance of timing and organisation. It is imperative – particularly in English conditions – to put yourself in the best position to get crops in at the right time!

Another pertinent point which created unnecessary problems was the revoking of the general license at such an important stage for both crops and birds. Some crops came under intense pressure from pigeons when licenses were yet to be issued and when licenses were finally awarded it was too late for some and the damage was done. Spoiled cover and dead chicks were all too often the result of the nature loving Wild Justice Campaign.


Behind the Scenes

Much of the time in the Bright Seeds office has been spent working on getting an answer on what is happening with Meserol – the seed treatment that we use on our game maize to deter birds from destroying the crop.

True to form, the answer came fairly late in the day, although not late enough to prevent our seed processors in France from treating our maize seed for the upcoming planting. However, this is the last season that we will be able to use this treatment. Attention now turns to what we will use in spring 2021 – we are looking at alternatives – with a different kind of seed treatment a possibility.


Agriculture Bill

It would appear the new Agriculture Bill could be beneficial for both the work of gamekeepers and the countryside in general. Rather than farmers gaining financial reward based solely on the number of hectares they own; the new system looks to reward and incentivise those who manage the habitat properly. For example, the planting of certain stewardship crops that benefit farmland birds or pollinators will be one area that from which land managers can gain reward.

It is hoped that via the new Ag Billwe will end up with a system that is tailored to the surrounding environment – which allows land managers to target local surroundings and species.

A number of Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) are also coming to an end having been active for ten years. Some have opted to extend for another year, though the majority seem to be opting out and opting into the new Countryside Stewardship (CS) schemes.

It is advisable to check the status of any HLS schemes that anybody is currently a part of.


Looking Ahead

So, with the season over and the big tidy up completed by most, thoughts now quickly turn to next season – and not a moment too soon. After a particularly wet winter – not helped by massive recent rainfall due to storm Ciara – we’re hoping for a good, dry spring.

Although nothing can be forced, it is important to be getting on with groundwork as soon as possible; with seedbed preparation one of the earliest priorities. Another priority is to ensure that seed is ordered in good time, we are seeing a substantial amount of seed going out at the minute and it is best to order early to avoid disappointment.

Additionally, it is important to get fertiliser ordered. We’re currently seeing a drop in price on fertiliser – so we strongly recommend buying fertiliser now before prices begin to creep up again.