The Countryside About Us January 2000

posted 31 Dec 2019, 04:36 by Earl Soham Parish Council

You could count on the fingers of one hand the really basic crops that are grown to feed the worldwide masses of people. Wheat, maize and rice are the principal crops that supply our carbohydrates. Vegetable protein is provided by even fewer varieties. The soya bean, either as a source of oil or meal is by far and away the most widely produced. The processed soya bean is used in a great many products; witness the listed ingredients on many of the “convenience” foods available in our supermarkets. There is even “Soya milk”! However, until recently, the soya bean could not be successfully grown on British farms. The climate here compared with the U.S.A and South America, where much of the soya bean is grown, has not allowed British farmers to introduce it into the rotation. However, recently, because plant breeders have succeeded in producing new varieties that will thrive in our climate, trials have begun in Hampshire and elsewhere to see if it can be established as a viable crop. One of the attractions of growing it would certainly be the fact that it can be drilled in the springtime. One of the detractions is that combining the soya beans is, like the familiar field bean, much later than the cereal harvest. A wet autumn would bring harvesting problems. Nevertheless, before too many more seasons have passed the white or purple flowers of this leguminous crop might well be seen in the fields of the countryside about us.

One cannot fail to notice the number of new trees planted locally. The number appears to far exceed those lost over the previous few decades because of old age, disease and gales. Thanks to the enthusiasm of a few people coupled with the provision of saplings by an enlightened District Council, many suitable verges and public spaces have been utilized in this way. I was delighted to see, as I wended my way along Dial Lane recently in my pony and cart, a good many newly planted young trees. Planting an oak, ash or other deciduous variety is very much an act of faith. It will be future generations who will, I trust, offer up a silent “Thank you” to those who had the vision of creating peaceful tree lined lanes in our parishes.

January is a time for looking forward to that best of all English seasons, spring. Even in January clues to its perennial arrival are never far away. Move some dead leaves in a sheltered corner of the garden and green tips of early bulbs can be found. Honeysuckle leaves will begin to emerge and aconites will already add a touch of colour to drab surroundings.

Roger Sykes