Posted by: braddenvillage | May 15, 2011

Ever wondered what crops are growing in the fields around us?

Ever wondered what crops are growing in the fields around us?

The climate and topography of the UK lends itself to two distinct types of farming.

Pastoral farming (the use of grass pasture for livestock rearing) is found in areas of higher rainfall and among the hills, predominantly to the north and west of the UK.

Arable farming (land that can be ploughed to grow crops) is concentrated in the south and east of the UK where the climate is drier and soils are deeper.

Farming systems:

In the UK there are three main approaches adopted by farmers in their farming system. These are defined as organic, conventional and integrated. Organic farming represents around 4% of the farmed area and is based upon the concept of sustainability utilising the farm’s own resources. Conventional farming adopts modern technology and utilises other inputs such as pesticides and artificial fertilisers while integrated farming makes the conventional approach sustainable. Most conventional farmers practice integrated farming.

Media characterisation of the UK’s farming systems has widely depicted organic farming as good with conventional as bad. This simplification misses the point as in practice a cross over of approaches exist on most farms.

Farmers are responsible for managing around 75% of the UK’s surface area and for maintaining many features that are inherrently perceived as “countryside”. Whether they be, hedges, ditches, meadows or copses, all have resulted from centuries of farming activity and today they are closely integrated into farming practice. Regretably this has not always been the case. In the 1970’s and 80’s farmers responded to government incentives to become more efficient often destroying habitats and countryside features in the process. The reversal of this process in the 1990’s is best illustrated by our uk farming conservation database which illustrates the diversity and enthusiasm by which farmers have embraced environmental care

So, what is growing in the fields around us?

Rape Seed:

Rapeseed (Brassica napus), also known as rape, oilseed is a bright yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage family). The name derives from the Latin for turniprāpa or rāpum, and is first recorded in English at the end of the 14th century.

Rapeseed was the third leading source of vegetable oil in the world in 2000.

Uses: Rapeseed oil was produced in the 19th century as a source of a lubricant for steam engines. It was less useful as food for animals or humans because it has a bitter taste due to high levels of glucosinolates. Canola has been bred to reduce the amount of glucosinolates, yielding a more palatable oil. This has had the side-effect that the oil contains much less erucic acid.

Rapeseed is grown for the production of animal feedvegetable oil for human consumption, and biodiesel

The rapeseed is the valuable, harvested component of the crop. The crop is also grown as a winter-cover crop. It provides good coverage of the soil in winter, and limits nitrogen run-off. The plant is ploughed back in the soil or used as bedding. On some ecological ororganic operations, livestock such as sheep or cattle are allowed to graze on the plants.

Processing of rapeseed for oil production provides rapeseed animal meal as a by-product. The by-product is a high-protein animal feed, competitive with soya. The feed is mostly employed for cattle feeding, but also for pigs and chickens (though less valuable for these). The meal has a very low content of the glucosinolates responsible for metabolism disruption in cattle and pigs.

Winter Wheat:

Winter wheat is a type of wheat that is planted from September to December in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter wheat sprouts before freezing occurs, then becomes dormant until the soil warms in the spring. Winter wheat needs a few weeks of cold before being able to flower, however persistent snow cover might be disadvantageous. It is ready to be harvested by early July.

Hard winter wheats have a higher gluten protein content than other wheats. They are used to make flour for yeast breads, or are blended with soft spring wheats to make the all-purpose flour used in a wide variety of baked products. Soft wheat is used for specialty or cake flour. Durum, the hardest wheat, is primarily used for making pasta. Almost all durum wheat grown in North America is spring-planted.


Barley is a grass with a swollen grain that is similar to wheat that can be ground to produce a flour suitable for the production of bread. However unlike wheat, barley has always been particularly important in the production of beers and ales. Barley is the second most widely grown arable crop in the UK with around 1.1 million hectares under cultivation and today’s varieties trace their origins back over 10,000 years to the first farmers.

Barley has remained a successful cereal crop because of its short growing time and ability to survive in poor conditions. Although it is grown throughout most of the UK it is often the dominant arable crop in the north and west of Britain where growing conditions are most difficult and less favourable for wheat.

Each year the UK produces around 6.5 million tonnes of barley. Roughly 1.5 million tonnes are exported, 2 million tonnes are used in the brewing and distilling trades with 3 million tonnes being used for animal feed.

Barley is striking because of the long spikes that emerge from the end of each grain. These are known as awns. Barley is also easily identifiable on breezy days in the early summer when “waves” blow through the crop.

For more information click here, to go to “UK Agriculture”

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