8 March 2002

A February standstill…

FEBRUARY has come and gone with little achieved on the land but then our expectations were not high.

We had set our target at a first small application of nitrogen on the oilseed rape which was applied using the Kuhn Aero at 65kgN/ha (52 units/acre) in the form of prilled urea. That was completed on Feb 15. Had we taken delivery of muriate of potash, we would have continued with the application on the ploughed land in readiness for peas.

Unfortunately, when ordering small quantities, a mere 3t, we were subject to Hobsons Choice. By the time the fertiliser arrived, rain and high winds prevented further progress with the spreader.

March looks like being a busy month. Apart from about 19ha (47 acres) of sugar beet and 32ha (80 acres) of peas to sow we have just over 120ha (296 acres) of wheat and barley to top dress with nitrogen and spray with growth regulator and fungicide. Lets hope we soon get good weather to enable us to get on with the job.

We have had the last of the weekly beet invoices from British Sugar enabling us to see the returns for the 2001/02 campaign. I appreciate that not all growers are in this position and two members of our farmer group A1 Farmers are still waiting to clear sugar beet that have been lifted into store before Christmas.

Our first 18 loads were delivered by Nov 8 followed by 12 loads two months later in January. The remaining eight loads which were harvested after the frost were hauled and processed within 48 hours.

We managed to achieve 122.76% of our quota delivering a total of 206t of C beet this year. The yield of clean beet was just over 50t/ha (20/acre) and the average sugar content 17.6%. Tares are down on previous seasons as were amino N levels all of which combined to produce a respectable yield of 57.47t/ha (23t/acre) adjusted to 16% sugar.

The year on year comparisons for sugar beet can be seen in the table for season 2001/2002, the previous year and also the five-year average.

Looking at the variable costs of production for the past two years its hard to pick out much variation with the exception of a fungicide treatment for the 2001/2002 crop. We applied carbendazim and flusilazole (Punch C) to control powdery mildew and rust in late August last year. After seeing considerable rust the previous year, when the fungicide had been left out, and knowing that the crop would remain in the ground to grow on into the autumn, we considered £13/ha (£5/acre) a justifiable cost (see Table 2).

Since British Sugar does not attach a value to C beet, I note that our last load cost us £1.02 more in cleaning, loading and haulage charges than we received in value on our weekly beet invoice. That was even allowing for enhanced late delivery bonuses.

New student

I have been remiss in not introducing our new sandwich year student. Marcus Crookes joined the team last July and like his predecessor Will Clark is studying at Brackenhurst Agricultural College; part of Nottingham Trent University.

In his curriculum vitae Marcus states that he is an enthusiastic, adaptable, strong young man who enjoys all aspects of farming, and goes on to say that, he is keen to increase his knowledge and skills in order to achieve his goal of becoming a farm manager.

At 18 years old Marcus has not had too much practical experience before attending college and due to foot-and-mouth disease last year has not been able to take advantage of training courses off farm. Hopefully we will be able to rectify this.

He has had to pick things up quickly and with staffing problems in the pig unit last autumn, he has coped well. We have certainly had cause to tap into his assets, namely enthusiasm, adaptability and strength.

Marcus is our thirteenth student to spend his sandwich year at Easton Lodge and the arrangement has worked well. We invite students to attend an interview in the early new year and offer the successful applicant a job for 14 months starting in July and covering two harvests. The post includes the use of a furnished and fully equipped bungalow on the farm on a self-catering basis. The property is rent free but the occupant pays for light, heating and telephone. Council tax is normally exempt for full-time students with a place on a college course.

The wages paid are for a standard agricultural worker plus overtime. The student is required to work about eight hours every other weekend on the pig unit unless required to work on the arable farm in which case the hours could be more.

Our aim is to offer a full grounding of work and training in both and arable and pig departments with access to training courses organised by the Rutland Training Group.

In return, we get the commitment of young people dedicated to learning their trade of farming and keen to earn enough money to help finance another year at college.

The worry is that the supply of new entrants to the industry will dry up. That is a threat not just for farmers like us, with openings for training, but for employers who require the trained and qualified post-graduates. &#42

to staff our businesses in the future.

Table 1:Easton Lodge sugar beet results –

year-on-year comparison

2001/2002 2000/2001 Five year av.

Area (ha) 19.31 19.56 21.83

Yield dirty beet (t/ha) 55.85 58.37 62.92

Tare (%) top 7 8 7

Total 11 15 13

Yield clean beet (t/ha) 50.67 57.57 55.34

Av. amino N 77 128 129

Av. sugar (%) 17.6 16.4 17.3

Adjusted beet yield (t/ha) 57.47 52.79 61.69

Quota achieved (%) 122.76 116.55 152.21

Table 2: Sugar beet variable costs

2001/2002 2000/2001

£/ha £/ha

Herbicides 69.24 80.27

Fungicides 12.96 –

Adjuvants 0.72 1.02

Total pesticides 82.92 81.29

Fertiliser 13.38 7.23

Seed 134.46 130.92

Total variable costs 230.76 219.44