Due to our exceptionally mild winter climate the narcissi season can begin on Scilly as early as October. However whilst the climate is certainly an advantage, to make sure we have enough good quality narcissi growing through to Easter takes some serious planning. Our outdoor team have been working hard this summer to prepare the crop.
Between June and August the burning equipment is attached to the tractor when the weather is at its warmest and driest.
The current machine we have uses kerosene in a very targeted, efficient and (importantly) safe way to achieve the burning. It can burn quite quickly and in a greater range of conditions compared to the old style propane gas burners we used to use. They were slow, not so efficient and quite temperamental. The new machine gives us a lot more flexibility in how we are able to deliver the heat to the bulbs.
When the fields are burnt back it is quite a sight to be seen.
There is a very good purpose for this farming practice though. By clearing the field of debris, this reduces disease that could otherwise be carried over to next year’s crop. The burning of the organic debris also produces smoke rich in ethylene that permeates the soil to reach the bulbs. The smoke promotes flower initiation, which means more bulbs will produce a flower. The heat from the warm soil also causes bud initiation; this means we will have flowers with more florets and stronger stems.
So all in all the burning process helps to ensure that this winter we will have plenty of good quality narcissi to send, happy farmers and happy customers!