Organic spring wheat

Growing the crop & wildlife conservation

We sow in early March


  • On our organic arable fields we have a simple rotation: two years as a green manure, two years cereals, then back into green manure. So, the cereal crops, such as organic wheat, get most of their nutrients from the green manure
  • Where we grow wheat two years running we may add a extra sources of nutrients such as farmyard manure and naturally occurring minerals such as kieserite which contains magnesium and sulphur

Weed control:
The two years under a green manure helps reduce perennial grass weeds and thistles. Arable annual weeds are controlled using a tine weeder. This machine has a lot of tines about 1cm wide. These are run through the soil when the wheat is about 10cm high and most weeds are 1-2cm high. The smaller weeds are uprooted or buried. Some wheat is also buried but as it is larger it recovers and grows through the disturbed soil. We may also use autumn cultivations to control thistles and grass weeds

Insect pest & control:
We have had no significant problems with insect pests.

Disease control:
We have had no serious problems with disease in organic cereals

Threats to the crop:

  • Drought is a major threat on our sandy soils
  • Some fields have weeds which are hard to control effectively. For us, charlock is a problem on chalky soils and creeping thistle on our sandiest soil
  • Rabbit grazing
  • Heavy rain or hail at harvest

What helps:

  • A warm spring helps get the crop established quickly
  • Spring and summer rainfall can increase yield
  • Dry weather in August helps with harvest

Wildlife conservation:

  • The ploughing up of green manure before a wheat crop attracts good numbers of lapwing and other species such as starling. I assume this is because there are a lot of invertebrates in the soil after two years under the mix of grass and legumes. This seems to get lapwing onto the farm at the right time for breeding and the invertebrates may help hold lapwing here. In some years organic spring wheat fields have 25% of our lapwing nests but cover only 5% of the farm
  • We’ve done no research comparing organic cereals to conventional for wintering birds and breeding grey partridge. There may be benefits for these birds because of the higher number of weeds in organic cereal crops and stubbles compared to conventional

Harvest & what the crop is used for

Spring wheat is harvested with a combine, usually during late August

Caring for the crop:
After combining, it goes into our grain store where it is dried and cooled. This prevents the build-up of fungi and insects n the stored grain

What it is used for:
Our spring wheat is mostly sown for use as seed by other farmers in the following year. It is also used for milling to produce bread

There is some straw though on organic land we mostly chop this and plough it back into the soil