I expect that you’ve all been getting stressed, waiting for a progress update on the meadow establishment trial that we started running last Autumn. I had expected to be faced with the challenge of finding an interesting way to write around ‘not a lot’, but in actuality I do have something to report. Unfortunately, however, it concerns ‘progress’ in a backwards direction. Continue reading
Richard had recommended that I hold a few seeds back, to use in germination trials. This is arguably a posh way to describe sowing them in seed trays and seeing what happens. Once sown, the trays were to be left outside (with covers) so that their situation broadly matched that of the seeds in the trial plots. Continue reading
I’m aware that I left you all in suspense at the end of the last post about the NRF meadow establishment trial, by mentioning that all did not go smoothly with the plot markers. I had bought markers that had been recommended as the best by an experienced trial manager. These are Feno Markers, supplied by M&P Survey Equipment Ltd, who had been kind enough to give us a ‘charity discount’ off the price, for which we are very grateful. Continue reading
We had intended to cultivate the appropriate plots and sow the seed in early November. But Duncan felt that the soil at the trial site, which is very clayey, was too dry to form an acceptable tilth. He was worried that it would remain in clods. So we agreed to wait until some rain had fallen. Luckily we did not have to wait for too long, and so we agreed to do it on 18 November. Continue reading
Potentially far more challenging than preparing the sand was splitting the four species of seed into the right amounts for each plot, and then mixing these with each other and the sand. With 30,000 Meadow saxifrage seeds weighing a whopping 0.6 gram I was worried about a) how to measure this out appropriately, and b) avoiding a sneeze and losing the whole lot. With our most sensitive scales weighing a minimum of 1 gram (but see later), this wouldn’t be done by weight. It would have to be by sight. At least the other three species would be straightforward, as each plot requires 1.5 grams, 3 grams and 5 grams respectively.
Or so I thought. Continue reading
About ten days before we planned to cultivate the plots and sow the seed I met Duncan, our contractor, at the trial site to mark out the plots. Armed with a measuring wheel, a very long tape measure, lots of stakes and a thumper, we planned our strategy. Or, rather, Duncan did. Here he is, working out his cunning plan. Continue reading
So now we knew how much sand we would need, and thus what size of containers we would need. Duncan and I had decided that I would bring 12 ready mixed containers to the trial site on the day of the sowing, so these needed to be both water proof and secure. I was hoping to use plastic food containers – but what size? Continue reading
In my previous post I started to explain the detailed decisions that we found we needed to address in preparation for starting the trial. To continue … Continue reading
So – the pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place: we’ve raised enough funds to enable us to start the trial, we have bought all the seed we need for the first set of plots, and we’ve contacted our contractor, Duncan, to let him know we’re ready to go. Accordingly I arranged to meet him onsite last week, to agree exactly what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it, and when it will all happen.
In preparation for this meeting I went back to read the detailed trial design and instructions that Richard wrote two years ago, to see what they actually said! Two years ago, when we were still setting the entire project up, they had appeared to be very detailed. But from the perspective of a few days prior to briefing Duncan they suddenly appeared to contain a few holes, such as:
- Out of the 36 trial plots that we will eventually sow, which ones should we use for the twelve to be sown this year.
- How should we arrange the four different treatments (1. = no harrow / 2 annual cuts; 2. = no harrow / 3 annual cuts; 3. = harrowed seedbed / 2 annual cuts; 4. = harrowed seedbed / 3 annual cuts) among the twelve plots to be sown this year?
- How should we prepare the seed for sowing – how should the right amounts of the four species’ seeds be measured, and how should these then be combined for sowing?
- What dilution substrate should we mix the seed with, to make handling practical?
- Exactly how should the seed / substrate mix be sown?
- What markers should we use for each plot, and where should we obtain these from?
- How many markers will we need per plot, and exactly where should they be located?
All of a sudden it didn’t feel as if we were quite as well prepared as I had anticipated!
However, after a few to and fro’s between Richard and myself, some high level executive decisions were taken:
Because the overall site is quite homogenous, it will be fine to simply use a block of twelve plots at one end of the site. This will keep things much simpler for the Duncan’s staff, and will thus reduce the risk of a plot accidently being given the wrong treatment.
The trial design requires each of the four treatments to be replicated three times each year (which is why we need to sow twelve plots each year.) To decide which treatment will be applied to each plot, I listed all twelve replicants in order, and then used an online random number generator to create the numbers 1 – 12 in random order. I then wrote this order against the list of twelve replicants, and this told me how to assign each treatment to each of the twelve plots. More fascinating details next week
In my last update about the Naturetale Restoration Foundation I described our efforts to source the seed that we need to start the trial. It turned out that no one supplier could provide four of the species that we need. But between them we can, and have sourced four. Just! Continue reading