Farm cropping for the love of it

JACQUIE WEBBY
Last updated 09:55 20/01/2014
white clover
JACQUIE WEBBY/ Fairfax NZ

PRETTY AS A PICTURE: Cropping farmer Nigel Wilson grows white clover for export.

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Cropping

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Nigel Wilson has been a cropping farmer pretty much "since he can remember" and for this South Canterbury farmer, it's a full-on occupation with a serious array of equipment to help keep the wheels of his farming operation turning.

"I knew I didn't want to be a dairy farmer and my parents had run a cropping operation, so here I am," he says.

One of Nigel Wilson's most productive (and picturesque) crops is white clover and he has about 100 hectares which is in full flower.

"White clover is grown for export to the United Kingdom," says Nigel.

"The paddocks start off planted in wheat with white clover under sown and once the wheat is harvested, the clover comes through and will be harvested for seed in February, 12 months after the wheat was harvested."

In early January, the paddocks resemble something close to a snowfall with a vista of white flowers but the success of the crop is due to a variety of inputs including the weather and bees supplied by Huttons Honey.

One of the keys to the success of the white clover crop is pollination and Wilson makes sure there are "plenty of bees" in the paddocks.

Wilson uses Hutton's Honey as his supplier and they bring in 40 hives for the job.

The bees arrive in the paddocks to coincide with the development of the first clover flowers.

Removal (of the hives) is weather dependent, but generally when the clover has finished flowering, Andrea Hutton, of Huttons Honey, says.

"We also recover white clover honey from the hives while they are in the paddock," she said.

In addition to the white clover crop, Nigel also grows fescue for export, has a small amount of red clover, which require bumble bees for pollination, and faba (also known as fava) beans.

Faba beans are grown to supply feed mills, says Wilson.

"The faba bean flowers also have a great perfume and certainly attract the bees."

Unlike dairying where you can see the success of your efforts once the cow has calved and comes into production, Nigel says cropping, including growing wheat, white clover and fava beans, can provide some lows.

"Wheat is in the ground for 11 months and you really don't know whether you have a crop until close to harvest. You just hope the season is favourable but if you enjoy what you do then its not really work is it?"

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- Fairfax Media

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