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Farmer focus

With soil temperatures up, every plant, be it sown or wild, is bursting upwards down here in deepest Cornwall. But groundwater levels are incredibly low after the very dry winter. Soil moisture is fine with the small crop canopies and relatively low temperatures, but I”m wondering how well crops will bulk up if the dry continues.

Soil nitrogen levels have been influenced by the low rainfall over the winter. For the first time we have tested for nitrogen, to add to our regular tests for phosphate, potash, magnesium and pH, as a result of meeting Kemira”s Mike Shepherd and deciding to give their GrowHow service a try, which includes testing backed up by advice. I sampled two fields – a heavy field planted with oilseed rape following winter wheat, which had the straw removed, and a light loam field in wheat after spuds.

Surprisingly, the lighter field had more nitrogen available because of the preceding spuds – 34kg/ha compared with 22kg/ha. That ground is actually two fields of 2ha, so I thought it would be interesting to do text book as per RB209, cutting the rate back accordingly, versus past practice – chuck on 225kg/ha (180 units/acre). Yields and bushel weight will prove which is the most economic approach. See – send a farmer on a FACTS course and he thinks he knows it all.

Last month we took our daughter up to the Royal College at Cirencester for an interview. It was heartening to see a thriving agricultural college and 640ha (1600 acres) of real farming. Even better, they offered Louise a place on the agriculture and land management course, A-levels permitting. At least she has a college to go to – my old one, Seale-Hayne, is being sold off for development by Plymouth University.



OUR THOUGHTS have been with the tsunami survivors and what could be done to alleviate their suffering. We wanted to somehow take a JCB there to help clear up the devastation.

This year is the centennial of the inauguration of the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

 It’s amazing the divergence of the two provinces since 1905. Most small towns have seen a huge shift in population westward in that time. Alberta has boomed, due to oil revenues and free enterprise, while Saskatchewan suffered under a Socialist government that drove investment away.

Now, according to provincial leaders, we are a “Have Province” on the back of oil, gas and potash mining, but we’re neglecting agriculture. That is manifestly shown in the 75%shortfall of the 40% provincial share of the CAIS (Canadian Agriculture Income Support) programme that the province has yet to commit to for the 2004 year.

We have eventually agreed to to participate in CAIS, as it now appears as long as we only have one disaster year in five, the need to achieve the highest possible price from sales in that year is negated by the “Olympic” averaging of the last five years” income.

With winter daytime temperatures averaging -30C, we have to keep the block heaters plugged in on the tractors and lorry, because a warm diesel is a happy diesel.

We have been piling up the 50cms of snow from around the bins to move 250t of wheat at the pitiful price of 30.48/t as feed wheat (due to frost damage), which was 13.5 protein and Hagbergs above 250.

This bin space is now occupied with cleaned six-row barley seed, while wheat and flax samples are away for germination and vigour testing prior to cleaning. richard.

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