Further applications of inorganic fertiliser are made during April to encourage further rapid growth in the grass. The aim is to ensure a good sward of grass by around 10th May in time for silage making. Also the winter and spring cereals will be needing nitrogen to promote growth and tillering. This is done in two or three stages as the plant develops. The fertiliser spreader will spread to a width of 12 or 20 metres. In cereals the crop has tramlines that the tractor driver can follow, but in grass it is more difficult to be accurate when judging the width. Attachments can be used which drop foam onto the grass so that he can see where he has been.
Cereals will also need to be sprayed against diseases. If a disease hits the plant then the final yield will be affected. An agronomist visits the farm on a regular basis to advise on the best chemicals to use. He will also take into account environmental factors and only suggest chemicals where they are absolutely necessary. Growing different crop species or using resistant varieties can control some diseases. Diseases tend to be dependant on the weather conditions – some will develop in wet and warm conditions while other prefer drier weather. Rainfall is one factor involved in spreading fungal disease around the crops as raindrops splash around the spores.
Ploughing begins in preparation for the maize crop. The students annually undertake a 24-hour ploughing marathon. To raise money for a local charity. They have a number of tractors and ploughs, which are working for the full day and night ploughing college land, and some for a neighbour. This activity regularly attracts attention from the local press and television. The students are split into shifts – while some are ploughing others are servicing the machinery.