South: Spraying efforts result in deep tramlines - Farmers Weekly

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South: Spraying efforts result in deep tramlines

We seem to have gone from complaining about dry conditions to praying for it to stop raining in a very short period of time. The recent weather has played havoc with spraying programmes but most people are now back on track, albeit with some rather deep tramlines to show for their efforts!

Forward wheat crops are at early flag emergence and some only received a T1 fungicide in the last 7 days. The inevitable dilemma now is how soon to follow up with the Flag leaf fungicide? Most delayed T1 applications will have hit leaf 2 so can we afford to delay the T2 application? My view is a definite no, disease pressure especially septoria is very high and the flag leaf is responsible for 50% of yield.

Some of the new SDHI fungicides offer better kickback than triazoles, but still give the best yield responses applied at growth stage 39. In most cases I am basing the T2 fungicide around SDHI materials, using either a xemium or isopyrazam based fungicide depending on disease pressure and yield potential. Early crops will be ready by about the 19th with the bulk of the wheat crop at GS 39 from the 21st onwards.

Rape crops look well, unfortunately some of the taller varieties – in particular Dimension and Sesame – seem to have lodged in places despite a well timed and robust dose of metconazole. The worst lodging is on heavy soils where the soil was saturated and crops simply lost anchorage in the gales and torrential rain in early May.

Most crops have just received a second sclerotinia spray. Hopefully timing delays have not allowed too much disease into the crop. Seed weevil numbers are low this year so very few crops have had to be treated with an insecticide. The exception being one or two crops with established colonies of mealy aphids that I treated with Aphox.


29 September 1997


RAIN has checked progress with an estimated 15% of wheats in places still uncut by midweek. Early signs are that beans are performing well, though not as well as in the east. Little spring linseed has yet been cut.

Showers and heavier rain over the weekend left pockets of wheat unharvested on Salisbury Plain, in the Cotswolds and even in lower lying areas such as Pewsey Vale, reports Nick Oakhill of Wilts-based Allied Grain. "I am amazed at how much wheat there is still to be harvested."

Early wheat yield from thin high ground at Faccombe Estates, near Andover, Hants is depressing, reports Julian Harbottle. "Our Soissons at about 2.2t/acre is three-quarters to a ton down on last year. But it went in very late after grass." Quality is as yet untested. "But the grain looks fine.

By midweek he still had nearly 70% of the 280ha (700 acre) wheat crop to cut as well as 40ha (100 acres) of beans. May rainfall suited Grafila peas which averaged 4.4t/ha (1.8t/acre). "Thats 0.75t/acre better than last year."

Former Farmer of the Year Robert Lawton describes 1997 at North Farm, Aldbourne, Wilts as a "cliff-hanger". "It was a potential disaster pulled out of the fire by three weeks dry harvest. We could have been looking at another 1985."

Most striking feature is the difference in performance between heavy and light land crops, he says. "Wheat on our light chalk suffered quite badly with specific weights 5-8kg/hl lower than last year."

Barometer grower Bill Harbours combine came to a halt, after 20mm (0.8in) of rain at the weekend, with only 23ha (58 acres) of wheat, and 24ha (60 acres) of still-green field beans, to cut. Specific weights are definitely lower than last year, Riband ranging from 71 to 75kg/hl, he reports.

After a drying-free run, with off-combine wheat down to 11% moisture, the prospect of having to move 300t of stored grain to gain access to the drying floor does not appeal, he says.

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5 September 1997


WHEAT harvest is hanging on longer than hoped in catchy conditions and overall yields may be lower than first thought. Long idle driers have had to be fired up.

"There are some quite big wheat acreages still out there," reports Hants Grain manager Mike Clay. A spokesman for one local non-member estate admits milling potential has been ruined, though overall quality seems to be holding up, says Mr Clay. But intakes at the co-op store suggest yields may be 10-15% down on expectations.

By Monday barometer grower Bill Harbour was no nearer finishing his wheat than he was a week earlier. "We still have about 60 acres to do. We cut a field of beans over the weekend, but wheat was well over 25% moisture."

Punch beans yielded about 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) – pleasingly up 0.6t/ha (5cwt/acre) on the farms average. "But they were above 20% moisture."

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22 August 1997


WHEAT yields and quality are down on last year, but views vary on the extent and significance of the outcome.

Wheat combining is nearly over in north Kent and the extreme south. "We have not heard too many complaints," says Gary Herman of Chichester-based Bartholomews. "If yields were poor we would have heard."

Later harvested crops are performing better than earlier cuts, reports Jonathan Hoyland of Banks Agriculture. "We have seen Rialto from West Berks on 3.5-3.7t/acre. But that is still 0.5t down on last year. By and large the quality is there in the south and Oxfordshire." Most Riband and Consort is above 74kg/hl and most hard feed types over 250 Hagberg.

Crops drying fast in the field, with moistures down to 11%, have helped preserve Hagbergs, suggests John Smith of Weald Granary. Specific weights averaging 75kg/hl are only two points behind last year. But Rialtos protein is a disappointing 9.4%, he notes. Barometer grower Bill Harbour reckons his Brigadier on good brick-earth at Gosmere Farm, Faversham, Kent should deliver over 10t/ha (4t/acre). "But that is not as good as last year due to a bushel weight of 75-76. Last year it was 77-81. The Bunting peas for seed did 1.7t/acre compared with 2t/acre last year."

With three days wheat combining left, output on Michael Rowlands mixed soils at Bowden Farm, Burbage, Wilts, is about 1t/ha (0.4t/acre) below last years "phenomenal" achievement. "Our yields are disappointing."

Lantra peas get experimental yield metering attention at Silsoe Research Institute. Farm manager, Steve Watson reports Riband wheat yield down 2.5t/ha on last year after rain came 14 days too late to save the crop.

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8 August 1997


LITTLE wheat, apart from Soissons, has been harvested in the south, but early signs are that yields could be as encouraging as those from oilseed rape.

Nicholas Tapp began cutting winter wheat at St Nicholas Court Farms, Thanet, on July 29. A quarter of the way through the 440ha (1090 acres), second and third crop Beaufort has given 10.3t/ha (4.2t/ acre) at 80-81kg/hl specific weight, he reports. "Reaper is well over 10t." Beaver with a specific weight of 83kg/hl suggests quality should not be a problem, but Hagbergs have yet to be measured.

"To date it looks like we could be heading for a record. I just wish it was worth something."

Oilseed rape and peas have done exceptionally well given the apparently bad season, he adds. "Amber and Express rape have done 4.8t/ ha but the Inca only 3.9. Our average last year at 4.1 was the best for some time. It is a mystery where it all came from this year because it looked so awful earlier on."

With many combines on hold over the weekend Peter Fox took advantage of a weather window premium of £27/t over feed for 11% protein Hereward breadmaking wheat yielding about 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre) at Haines Hill Estate, Twyford, Berks. The result partly compensates for poor Pastoral winter barley results caused by drought and frost. "Our Soissons did 3t/ acre at 11.5% protein no trouble."

Tom Forsyth of R Sternberg Farms, Tenterden, Kent, reports early Riband at 9.97t/ha (4t/acre) corrected to 15% moisture, on a par with last year. "But the bushel weight is not very good. There are a few shrivelled grains."

Wheat will follow on from winter linseed and peas if the weather holds at Gosmere Farm, Faversham, for barometer grower Bill Harbour.

Synergy oilseed rape, at about 4.9t/ha (2t/acre) giving 0.5t/ha (0.2t/acre) more than last year, outyielded Arietta and Apex, which averaged 4.5t/ha (1.8t/acre). But the mean was pulled down by a 27ha (67-acre) field of Amber and Capitol which produced only 74t after being hit by dry seed-bed, flea beetles and pigeons.

"You cant blame the varieties. In general it has run very well," says Mr Harbour.

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1 August 1997


SIGNS are growing that oilseed rape performance could partly offset poor barley results in the south.

Yields of 3.7-4.9t/ha (30-40cwt/ acre) in Kent are encouraging, says Allied Grains Hugh Schryver. "They are better than last year."

Wilts-based colleague Nick Oakhill believes more northerly crops could outstrip those in Hants where mean yield is about 3.2t/ha (26cwt/acre). "But Gloucestershire is only averaging 23-24cwt/acre."

"We have been getting weighbridge yields of 23-28cwt/acre where we normally get 21-22," says Oxon-based Robert Kerr of Glencore Grain. "Plenty of people are nudging 30cwt/acre. Rape could be a good crop."

Rape yields are about 0.6t/ha (5cwt/acre) up on last year, reports Jonathan Hoyland of Banks Southern. "We have been averaging 1.3-1.6t/acre with one or two crops of 1.9." Even at current prices that adds an extra £74/ha (£30/acre) to the bottom line, he points out.

Barometer grower Bill Harbour is well pleased with initial rape results at Gosmere Farm, Faversham. Last years average, including some hybrid Synergy, was 4.4t/ha (36cwt/acre). "This year our first 8.5ha of Apex has done 39cwt/acre and the 2.8ha of hybrid Pronto alongside gave us 43cwt/acre. Brilliant." Neighbour Roger Scutt achieved over 4.9t/ha (2t/acre) of Apex, he notes.

Mr Harbours achievement partly compensates for Regina winter barley which did 8.3t/ha (3.4t/acre), but failed to make malting grade due to 1.9-2%N.

Winter barley and oilseed rape yields are very much on a par with budgeted yields, reports Cotswolds-based Tim Brown of RNT Farming. "Our Fanfare and Gleam did 7-7.5t/ha, which is a bit below normal. Our Apex and Amber oilseed rape on light soils are just under 3t/ha – spot on normal. But I have heard of some poor yields in oilseed rape round here."

Small grains saw Puffin struggle to make 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) on Robert Manns Woolpack Farm, Fletching, East Sussex. However "nice, plump berries" on Fighter made up for that. The variety topped 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), slightly down on last year, but above average, he says.

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27 December 1996


AFTER his most rewarding year ever Charlie Edgley believes his Buckinghamshire family farm is on the right lines. The long-term future at Kensham Farms, Cadmore End, High Wycombe looks bright, he believes.

"But in the short term we are in for a bumpy ride. Costs have gone up considerably."

Very good wheat yields and being able to transfer all his set-aside to a co-operative neighbour played a big part in maintaining income. And joining a buying group should help offset the hike in input prices.

Main disappointment was not being able to achieve seed quality in the oilseed rape. "But it yielded well. And all the Angora malting barley, at 2.25t/acre, went at full spec for £142.50/t."

Wheat grain samples uncomfortably close to being short of sulphur, mean sulphur fertiliser will be used over the whole farm as first dressing this year. Regarding 1997 and beyond, Mr Edgley is realistic. "We certainly cant hope for it to be any better than 96. If area payments continue as they are we will be very lucky."

But sound investment, such as a newly planned grain store to meet human consumption standards, should eventually be rewarded, he believes. Joining Group Cereal Services for marketing should even out inevitable price peaks and troughs.

Wheat yields were good in 1996, but ryegrass control needs more attention, says Charlie Edgley.

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2 August 1996


WITH most winter barleys now cut, quality has improved, though high screenings remain common.

In the east of the region crops are yielding well, with low screenings but nitrogens are higher. First rape cuts suggest a promising crop.

"A lot of barley will need to be cleaned heavily," says Robert Leachman of Hants-based Usborne Grain. Pipkin is averaging 1.47% N and 12% screenings through a 2.25mm sieve, Halcyon 1.55% N and 15% screenings, and Puffin 1.63% N and 8% screenings.

Robert Kerr has seen good and bad. "It is very variable, all down to rainfall. But we are seeing some better samples – pukka barley that will malt without a claim." Early indications suggest typical rape yields of 3.5t/ha (1.4t/acre). "It is looking good."

Intro barley at Cadmore End, High Wycombe averaged 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) and made 65kg/hl. "After five years set-aside that is quite respectable," says barometer grower, Charlie Edgley.

Angora malting barley results of 1.7% screenings, 1.53% N and a 66kg/hl specific weight offset the 5.2t/ha (2.1t/acre) yield, he adds.

Rapid ripening

Halcyon winter barley off chalk hit 6.2t/ha at Simon Browns Meyrick Estates, Headbourne Worthy, near Winchester. Screen-ings are 20%, moisture 12%. "The rapid ripening probably affected grain size a bit," says Mr Brown. First N tests showed 1.3%, though that may rise. "I will settle for 1.5%."

In Kent, traders report good yields of bolder barley at the halfway stage. Charles Roberts at Grain Harvesters, Wingham, Kent, reckons Puffin is yielding 6.8-7.4t/ha (2.75-3t/acre). Specific weights are high, up to 75.7kg/hl, and screenings about 5%. But nitrogens range from 1.66-2.4%.

Fighter and Puffin winter barley produced "normal" yields -6.7t/ha (2.7t/acre) and 6.2t/ha, respectively – at Oncolands Gay Dawn Farm, Fawkham, near Dartford.

"Its the best Puffin sample weve had for years," says Clive Billings.

Some Soissons wheat has been cut at 15% moisture at Berkyn Manor Farm, Horton, near Slough. Yields from 6.2-7.4t/ha are as expected on first-cut landfill sites, says Colin Rayner. Quality bodes well – a 398 Hagberg, 14.67% protein and 77.3kg/hl specific weight.

Early German oilseed rape Ceres, grown to combat drought on gravel soils, produced about 3.4t/ha, as did Capricorn. Fighter barley disappointed at 5.63t/ha (2.3t/acre).

Amber and Apex oilseed rape averaged 4t/ha (1.6t/acre) off brickearths at Betteshanger Farms, near Deal. That is 25-30% higher than last year thanks to good establishment and timely rains, says Tim Hamilton. The swathed crop came off at 12% moisture.

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28 June 1996


THERE is no reason why conservation cannot go hand-in-hand with intensive farming, says Lawrence Wadman, southern finalist for the second year running.

With his parents and two brothers he farms 138ha (340 acres) at Elliscombe Farm, Higher Holton, near Wincanton Somerset.

At the heart of their farming system is a 160-cow Jersey herd which they plan to increase to 180 by the end of the year. Maximum use is made of home-grown forage supplemented by just under 1t a cow of concentrates.

Mr Wadman believes he uses fertiliser sensibly and responsibly. His Amazone ZAU 1002 twin-disc spinner is maintained regularly and calibrated every time he has a fresh batch of fertiliser and whenever the weather changes, such as from humid to dry.

Calibrating the spreader is easy. A disc is removed and a collection bucket fitted under the outlet. He then drives 41.5m (136ft) at standard operating speed. The amount in the bucket is one-fortieth of the application rate a hectare.

Using that information and a chart supplied with the spreader he can work out where to set the flow adjustment lever. A further calibration run confirms the application rate.

A headland disc is used to reduce the spread width on headlands, but still distribute fertiliser evenly. Changing the discs takes literally seconds. Where he can see his wheel marks he feels confident his experience guarantees accurate driving and bout widths, but where he cannot see a mark he uses a foam blob bout marker.

Application rates for slurry, manure and dirty water are estimated and their nutrient content allowed for using standard ADAS figures. This year the ADAS Fertiplan service was used, but its recommendation to use another 50kg/ha (39.2 units/acre) of nitrogen on grazing fields was ignored. "We find if we use more than a total of 180kg/ha (141.1 units/acre) the cows reject too much grass."

Much of the silage comes from short-term leys grown in rotation with 28ha (70 acres) of cereals and 22ha (55 acres) of maize, and cut four times a year. A total of 300kg N/ha (235.2 units/acre) is used on these leys. Some longer leys are cut twice, for which they get 185kg N/ha (145 units/acre), and are then added to the cow grazing area. The aftermath gets 44 kg N/ha (34.5 units/acre).

Other features of the farm which indicate the Wadman familys commitment to conservation include tree planting in field corners, which machinery cannot reach, and regular hedge laying.

continued on page 64

Somerset farmer Lawrence Wadman re-calibrates his spreader whenever he moves to a new fertiliser product and when the weather changes.

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25 August 1995


WITH little more than spring rape and linseed to tackle, most growers are expected to finish harvest by this weekend.

"At least we will have 100% of the linseed in the barn this year," comments one merchant.

United Oilseeds Richard Matt-hews says it is too soon to give an accurate picture on spring rape yields. But David Cubitt of Group Cereal Services comments: "We are looking at a fairly awful crop". First yields are running as low as "0.5t/acre". Despite the dry weather there have been problems with uneven ripening. "We have seen quite a lot of red seeds."

Linseed looks better, says Mr Cubitt. Even so Roger Moores seed crop of Mikael at Manor Farm, Stapleford, near Salisbury, managed only "about 16cwt/acre" against the farm average 2.5t/ acre (1t/acre). "It seems to me it gave up flowering too soon," he comments. "We also had some establishment problems and had to spray three times against flea beetle."

Peas were also "down a bit because of the heat at flowering", Rex for seed giving "just 2t/acre." "We got 55cwt/acre last year."

But the wet spring, which helped keep the underlying chalk topped up with moisture, meant wheat output held up well.

Nick Poole of the Arable Research Centres reports both winter and spring field bean yields only "33% of last years". Spring rape and linseed "wont be very special but not quite as bad as the beans". Rape output from chalk soils is quite mixed but spring barley has done "remarkably" well.

In the Cotswolds, where David Jenkinson reports "only 4in of rain in the past 6 months" on his farm at Eastleach, linseed gave a "pretty average 14cwt/acre". But 32ha (80 acres) of spring rape at "14-15cwt/acre" is "half what we would like to see." Many 150-year-old beech trees could be finished.

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11 August 1995


INTENSE sunshine and the long dry spell is ensuring top quality crops, but patchy July rains are reflected in variable wheat yields.

With harvest 75% complete in places, wheat quality is "phenomenal", according to Robert Kerr of Oxon-based Glencore Grain.

Moistures down to 11% have left driers idle, saving up to £10/t and offsetting some weight loss. Hot grain is a problem, and store ventilation vital to stop proteins degrading, he warns.

Milling wheat protein averaging 11.4% is a "full 1% up" on last year. Hagbergs are well over 300. And "fantastic" specific weights have made testing redundant.

Some light soil second wheats are "rubbish". "But there are some big crops on heavy land." He estimates output "0.25-0.5t/acre" up on last year.

Usbourne Grains James Marshall says early proteins reached 13%, but the figure has slipped recently. Specific weights are up to 86kg/hl. "The lowest weve seen was Riband at 76.

"But were getting a confused message on yields. Theyre very varied." The key seems to have been moisture during grain fill. Many growers had good rain in early July – others missed out completely.

Barometer grower Roger Lovejoy expects to finish wheats early next week. Yields are much as last season, with first-time Rialto after beans "at least 3.5t/acre". But specific weight is several points up. "Even the Hunter is 80-81kg/hl. Its like lead this year."

Michael Rowlands greensand and chalk at Bowden Farm, Burbage, Wilts, has produced widely varying wheat yields, Riband giving "2.8-4t/acre". Crops on deeper soils are better than expected – those on poor, thin land are worse than anticipated.

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4 August 1995


MANY growers have enjoyed an uninterrupted run pulling in surprisingly good yields after long spells of dry weather.

"Its been a joy so far," says Berks-based barometer grower Roger Lovejoy, despite a combine bearing failure which will bring a hefty repair bill.

Apex oilseed rape at 3.4t/ha (27cwt/acre) at as little as 6% moisture is well up on the farms average. And green-strawed Image oats, about half done, are "about our average 3t/acre." despite being down to 9.8% moisture. Low volume ventilation to prevent sweating in store is a must this year, he says.

Considering his chalkland Tenantry Farm, Rockbourne, Wilts, has had its driest season since 1976, Robin McCleod is well pleased with his 6.4t/ha (2.6t/acre) of Chariot spring barley for seed. "Last year we did 54cwt/acre, but this year its been incredibly dry." The straw is making a "very valuable £50/acre", he adds.

However Brigadier wheat, due to be tackled this week, is "seriously dried out".

Simon Hiscock, manager at Prescombe Farm, Salisbury, experienced a similar spring barley result. "Our Chariot could be the highlight of this harvest." Tempted to return to the crop after six years by high malting premiums, he achieved an "in-bin, weighed, 14% moisture 58cwt/acre" from what had seemed stressed plants. "Previously we reckoned to get about 45cwt/acre."

Good winter rains on the chalk soils are the probable explanation, both men believe.

Pendragon naked oats also did well at Prescombe, turning in "45-46cwt/acre" compared with the farms average of 5t/ha (2t/acre).

Jonathan Hoyland of Newbury-based Banks Doltons reports most winter barley and oilseed rape finished with the cereal output about 10% up on last year and rape "probably 0.2t/acre up."

"Weve seen only a few spring barleys and they are not as good quality as the winters yet. There could be a few more screenings as they were exposed to the drier period for longer."

Mark Jones of Dorking-based Attlees says Soissons wheat is giving generally good yields of "extremely good quality grain" with proteins over 11%. But on one sand land farm near Newbury output has been below 5t/ha (2t/acre). "The crop just died."

he says.

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28 July 1995


COMBINES have made big inroads in the extreme south, but progress elsewhere is steadier.

With wheats ripening fast after winter barley and oilseed rape, some farms are even questioning which to harvest first, according to Usborne Grains Nick Oakhill. As much as 10% of the wheat, mainly Soissons, is cut in places but some Brigadier was also taken over the weekend, with yields and quality holding up well, he reports. "Crops in Hampshire have gone off really quickly. By the end of the week I suspect we will see a real stream."

The sheer speed of harvest could soon pose transport problems, suggests Mick Matthews of Chichester-based Bartholomews.

Ian Eastwood of Wilts-based Allied Grain estimates as much as half the winter barleys in the south were in by the start of the week with "cracking bushel weights" but "only average yields".

Barometer grower Roger Lovejoy is "pleasantly surprised" with his 40ha (100 acres) of Fighter and Gaelic winter barley, which despite frost damage gave some "nice samples" and averaged 7t/ha (2.8t/acre) – slightly up on his rolling average.

Straw, all sent to Wales, fetched enough to pay for a quarter of the crop growing costs, he adds.

"I said it would be a barley and rape year – so I have been proved now half-way right."

Lots of "lovely straw" also added to "very acceptable" winter barley yield and quality for David Margesson at Burderop, near Swindon, Wilts. Oilseed rape came off well at "7.4% moisture, no red seeds, no losses whatsoever and a yield certainly above 1.25t/acre".

Further south Mr Oakhill reports some rape burnt off, with seeds dry and brown rather than black. "Growers could lose yield."

In the Thames valley Colin Rayner has no such problems, with Ceres rape doing "1.94t/acre at 12% moisture". But Soissons wheat is a "bit pinched" with some green grains from the tramlines. Yield will be a bit down on last years 10t/ha (4t/acre), he reckons. "But if I had had Riband, Hunter or Avalon on these gravels I would be hanging from a beam – they would all have burnt off."

Patience required

Not everyone in the region has progressed so well. Peter Maylam made a start on direct-cut Bristol oilseed rape last week on high ground at Bilting Grange, Ashford, Kent, but found it unripe. "We have just got to be patient."

Altitude, 200m (700ft) above sea level, has also held back Pastoral winter barley for Michael Bendall at Noons Farm, Oxenwood, Wilts. "It is only just fit but looks quite useful."

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21 July 1995


SOME rape and barley has been taken, particularly on lighter soils. Early reports suggest reasonable yields and quality.

Simon Browne of Meyrick Estates, near Winchester, cut Puffin barley last week. Yields were "not very special" at 6t/ha (2.42t/acre) but 20% up on last years disappointment. "Puffin seems to have lost some of its vigour, I shall switch to Fanfare or Melanie next year."

Barometer grower Roger Lovejoy expects to cut barley at Heads Farm, near Newbury, Berks, this week. Last weeks 40mm (1.6in) of heavy rain left crops too damp for an earlier start.

Losing some primary tillers to frost has not helped. Gaelic suffered most but Fighter was hit, too.

Apex oilseed rape was desiccated in the middle of last week with Roundup (glyphosate) to kill "odd patches" of couch.

"Wheats are not very thick but there are some good, big ears about. Crops look very similar to 1984. Let us hope we are in for another harvest like that."

The slow start to harvest has surprised Mike Clay, manager of Hampshire Grains central store. "With the weather as it was I was expecting people to go last week but it just didnt materialise."

Barley harvesting is all done at Lepe Farm, Exbury, Southampton – Torrent and Epic averaged marginally lower than last year at 6.2t/ha. Express oilseed rape is doing a "very good" 3.3t/ha.

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16 June 1995


DULL, cool weather is not too much of a worry for Roger Lovejoy at Heads Farm, Chaddleworth, Berks. But more sunshine would certainly help.

"We obviously need a bit more energy input now on the wheats. Im beginning to wonder whether it could be a barley and rape year – we had good weather when they were flowering.

"There could also be a bit more frost damage on the wheats than we thought. Theyre not over-thick, especially in the hollows, and we could get some uneven ripening."

A bonus of the cool conditions has been the absence so far of a blossom midge threat, although a neighbour was noted spraying against the pest last Friday. However, Mr Lovejoy is playing safe, continuing to check but reluctant to treat until absolutely necessary. "Last year we did every vulnerable field though not the headlands – about half the farm. But I dont like doing it because of the environmental angle."

Flag leaf/ear emergence sprays on the wheats consisted mostly of a mix of PP375 (chlorothalonil + flutriafol) and Silvacur (tebuconazole + triadimenol) at "1 litre/ha and 0.4 litres/ha" respectively. They went on with "only slight hiccups" because of the weather.

Blackgrass continues to show through, particularly in the oats and the odd patches caused by blocked nozzles when applying autumn IPU. But clean up spot treatments with Topik (clodinafop-propargyl) have "worked well" in wheats.

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19 May 1995


MILDEW in the bottom of the oats at Heads Farm, Chaddle-worth, Berks, was causing manager Roger Lovejoy most concern on the disease front this week.

"It is worse in the Image than in the Gerald which we are growing for the first time this year," he comments.

"We try to get away with one fungicide. Last year we used Corbel late because there was also some rust. If we have to go this week we will try Tern or Patrol."

With little disease pressure on the wheats, he had "hung fire" on treatment until the first week in May, when the farms standard approach of an initial PP375 (chlorothalonil + flutriafol) went on.

Rates were adjusted according to variety disease ratings, the Hussar and Riband getting 1.75 litres/ha but the more resistant Hunter meriting only 1.5 litres/ha.

Main aim was to keep septoria in check and tidy up a "trace" of mildew in the Riband.

"Looking ahead to the main fungicide, we will probably go for Silvacur and Bravo with some Tern or Patrol for the Riband. But it depends on the pressure at the time. In theory we like to stick to a two-spray programme."

On the barley, which had Hispor (carbendazim + propiconazole) early on, the plan was to "have a good look" this week before probably applying an mbc/triazole mix to protect against rhynchosporium and rust. "We havent spent an exorbitant amount on it and any fungicide should pay for itself."

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5 May 1995


A RELIABLE workforce is a contracting firms greatest asset, says Graeme Elliot, our contractor from the south-east. "But however up to date the equipment, without good people to operate it the business will always struggle.

"Conscientious staff, who get on with the day-to-day job of doing the work, allow whoever is running the operation to look for other opportunities. That is how a business grows and thrives."

Today, Mr Elliotts "core contracting business", based near Haywards Heath, Sussex, comprises: Plough to combine arable operations on 1210ha (3000 acres), 890ha (2200 acres) of grass silage harvesting, 400ha (1000 acres) of maize harvesting and baling about 30,000 rectangular bales with New Holland Ford D1000 balers. The firm also runs three round balers and a fleet of hedgcutters.

The contracting operation is now managed by Mr Elliotts brother, Clive, and seven regular self-employed staff while he concentrates on looking at ways to diversify the business.

"There will always be a place for the contractor who specialises in the use of high cost/high output machines, such as self-propelled forage harvesters. But there is a limit to the amount of this specialist work available in any one area – a limit to growth."

Over the past five years, a need to diversify has led to the development of a farm management consultancy service. He now provides a combined office administration/crop management/contracting service for six farms, and completes the IACS form on a further eight units.

"The two sides of the business complement each other. I can now go on to a farm as an advisory consultant, and know exactly how much it would cost me to do the same job."

Looking ahead, Mr Elliott says there will be an increasing need to forge closer links between farm consultancy and contractors. He sees the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC), of which he is the current chairman, as having an important role in promoting the contractors image with land agents, consultants and farmers. &#42

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28 April 1995


LUSH wheat growth is "deceiving", according to Roger Lovejoy at Heads Farm, Chaddleworth, Berks. Most crops on the relatively late farm were only just approaching GS31 (first node detectable) at the weekend.

The recent cold spell has held diseases in check and meant "nothings really happening".

"But if we get some warmth and rain, theyll rush through. Im a bit concerned that weve got rather a lot of tillers which could mean small heads."

All the winter barley nitrogen is on, but the wheats await their main dressing. Gaelic barley, which escaped frost damage, is much further forward than Fighter and suffered rather more from rhynchosporium, which was cleaned up in early April with Hispor (carbendazim + propiconazole).

A manganese seed treatment trial looks especially healthy.

Over-wintering blackgrass on the clay cap has provided a chance to test the new graminicide Topik (clodinafop-propargyl). "Ive done about 35ha – but I hate patch spraying," comments Mr Lovejoy.

Oilseed rape had plenty of pollen beetle. But spray plans were dropped because the uneven stand, due to pigeons and suspected acid patches, made correct timing impossible. A single treatment would not have been cost-effective, he believes.

Problems with a new closed-transfer chemical induction system being unable to accommodate all 1-litre containers have been particularly annoying.

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