March 4, 2013

Agricultural history. Professor Martin Jones. Lecture notes 3

 Professor Martin Jones, Kings College, Newcastle Upon Tyne, University of Durham

By Dr Deric Charlton

Early bite
The late Professor Martin Jones had some favourite expressions that he must have picked up on Welsh farms during his youth and Scottish farms while he was Grassland adviser in Aberdeen shire.

One of his favourites that his students still recall was “Early Bite”. This referred to the ongoing need each year for livestock farmers to grow some decent pasture for their stock as early as possible in spring.

Pasture growth stops during winter months in Britain so stock are sustained on conserved fodder (balage, silage and hay these days) and root crops (kale, swedes and turnips). But by late winter feed stocks are running low so the earlier a farmer can obtain some young spring pasture grazing then the better for his animals.

In Britain this means growing vigorous ryegrasses in a mixture that will start growth as soon as some warmth returns to the soil. When Martin Jones was lecturing to us there was a choice of perennial ryegrass, Italian ryegrass and H1, a hybrid ryegrass bred by Dr Lionel Corkill at the DSIR Grasslands Division in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Corkill bred H1 by crossing the perennial and Italian ryegrasses and selecting superior growing plants among these hybrids. The grass turned out to be a great success in New Zealand and Britain where it extended the pasture options for farmers.

Many years later plant breeders have further extended this range by breeding leafy selections of these ryegrass types, but back at the time Martin Jones taught us the basics of pasture management he emphasised the need for Early Bite by repeating the phrase regularly in his lectures. It still applies today on livestock farms.

Another stock phrase was “removing the primordia”. We have since realised that this was the whole rationale behind effective grazing management. Back in 1961 Martin Jones showed us a wheat plant (the Ministre selection) that he’d grown for SIX years! He achieved this by removing its primordium every time it tried to extend one. The plant therefore remained vegetative, and Martin Jones then told us that this management could transform annuals like Italian ryegrass into biennials and even perennials, provided the livestock didn’t suffer from starvation – they must always come first!

We were indeed privileged to learn from a genius.

Deric Charlton's original notes from Prof Martin Jones 1959

No comments:

Post a Comment