As a brassica, Rape is a favourite of slugs and has been widely affected by flea beetle, a small black shiny insect that attacks it at all stages of growth. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids (a chemical used to dress seed before being planted) in 2016 due to a fear of how they affect bees. Neonicotinoids made the plant less appetising to flea beetle and assisted the plant’s initial stage of growth by getting it out of the ground quickly.
With no more Neonics, we are permanently trialling new methods to keep the flea beetle at bay. At present, we are hoping that the application of digestate on the land prior to planting will be off putting to the flea beetle. Digestate is the bi product of a local anaerobic digestion plant used to turn food waste into electricity. The rotten vegetables etc give off methane which is harnessed and used as power and the incredibly nutritious waste is pasteurised (in case of any unwanted bacteria) and then spread on the land as an alternative to industrial fertilisers. So, we are taking an environmentally sound way of creating power and using their biproduct to hopefully control a devilish pest in an extremely environmentally protective way.
In addition, we have a permanent tractor and trailer collecting farmyard manure from many of the local racing/ riding stables and cattle yards. We spread this all over the land, building organic matter in the soil thereby attracting worms, assisting water retention and hopefully creating the perfect seed bed to maximise growth.