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Andrew Hebditch

4 August 2000

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch farms

285ha (700 acres) of

owned, tenanted and

share-farmed land at Coat,

Martock, Somerset. Silt

and clay soils support

winter wheat, barley and

oilseed rape, plus spring

peas, linseed and beans

HARVEST started on July 24 here, with 20ha (50 acres) of winter barley cut for a couple of neighbouring farms. That came off at about 16% moisture, 69-70 kg/hl and yielded 6.2-6.8t/ha (2.5-2.75t/acre). After a wet winter and dull wet April these low yields were not unexpected.

On July 27 we went into our Pronto oilseed rape, direct cutting without desiccation. Everything was standing and it was probably the easiest ever to combine. Moisture was about 11% and again yields were down at about 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre). Dull weather at flowering and, possibly the more serious yield sapper, sulphur deficiency depressed the yields. It is the first year we have omitted a foliar application – an economy not to be repeated.

Nitouche combining peas are still standing but are some way off combining. Solara peas will have headlands desiccated with 3 litres/ha of glyphosate as they are on the floor and should go on Monday. All the wheats are ripening fairly quickly, but I cannot see us cutting any before the middle of the month. Hopefully that is an indication of some useful yields. One or two areas of couch grass will be sprayed off pre-harvest with glyphosate to allow timely direct-drilled oilseed rape to be established after the straw is cleared. One bonus this year is the value of straw in the swath. Barley is trading at £85-£100/ha (£35-40/acre) and wheat at up to £62/ha (£25/acre) in this area.

With the future of farming in question and government seemingly indifferent to our problems I, along with many people in our industry, have taken the decision to employ someone else to sit in the tractor seat. That will allow me to retrain myself in an entirely different profession, and in due course earn an income that is a fair reward for the time and effort involved. It is a very sad indication of the times we live in when a 290ha (720 acre) farm such as ours cannot return a reasonable standard of living.

Combines are rolling with barley and oilseed rape cut on Andrew Hebditchs farm in Somerset.

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Andrew Hebditch

2 June 2000

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch farms

285ha (700 acres) of

owned, tenanted and

share-farmed land at Coat,

Martock, Somerset. Silt

and clay soils support

winter wheat, barley and

oilseed rape, plus spring

peas, linseed and beans

AT long last we are up to date; our flag leaf fungicides were finished on May 24, a few days later than we hoped with some ears emerging in more sheltered spots.

Judging by the weather forecast it is a good thing we have finished, as rain is given for the next three or four days.

Landmark (kresoxim-methyl + epoxiconazole) at 0.8 litres/ha went on most of the wheat. Twist (trifloxystrobin) at 1 litre/ha plus 0.5 litres/ha of Opus (epoxiconazole) followed an earlier application of the same mix on 22ha (55 acres) of Equinox. So far it seems to be doing a good job. To keep costs in check the only late growth regulator applied was Terpal (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid + mepiquat chloride) on 36ha (90 acres) of Savannah.

Linseed was direct drilled with the Vaderstad on May 6 at 38kg/ha (32lbs/acre), giving 500 seeds/sq m. Even on some very stiff ground the drill maintained a depth of 15-20mm (0.6-0.8 in). Cambridge rolls followed to close the drill slits that were left open in a few of the damper areas. Emergence has been rapid and even, with an insecticide already having gone on to subdue a thriving flea beetle population. Nitrogen has been applied at 88kg/ha (70 units/acre), which should help the crop get away.

Looking at growing costs so far, for the first time this year we are under £250/ha (£100/acre). Oilseed rape averages £245/ha (£99/acre) and wheat £237/ha (£96/acre) with just an ear wash to go. These costs may seem excessive but we do have a thriving wild oat and blackgrass population to tackle which a few spray misses highlight only too clearly.

A mountain is being made out of a molehill about the sowing of GM contaminated spring oilseed rape. As usual, farmers will be the whipping boys for a problem quite clearly not of our making. I wonder how long it will be before the media latches on to the fact that livestock is fed large tonnages of GM soya in this country? &#42

Direct-drilled linseed is up and away at Coat, on Andrew Hebditchs farm.

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Andrew Hebditch

10 March 2000

Andrew Hebditch

ONE week of dry weather in the second half of February saw a flurry of activity. The Vaderstad drill was hitched up ready to sow the spring beans and the ground was pitching off well. But then low pressure swept in again, bringing heavy rain and Februarys total to 57mm (2.2 in).

The dry spell did allow us to apply 270 kg/ha of 26.8.8 to oilseed rape and 240kg/ha of the same compound to most of the winter wheat. However, we couldnt travel on the wettest 24ha (60 acres) and that is the block most in need of the nitrogen.

All wheat has now been moved and despite having no accurate combine weigher our estimated tonnage was within a few percent of the actual amount. Beans and peas will be the next to be moved, with the beans awaiting an export market.

With time to spare during the wet weather we gave the two John Deeres a thorough service in preparation for the spring campaign. An oil leak was found in the 6400s combined oil cooler and air conditioning condenser, which I understand will mean at least a £500 bill. By my reckoning that is nearly 8t of wheat. Hopefully, that is a one off as the machines have been very reliable so far.

In these difficult times thoughts turn to the low profitability of farming and ways of reducing costs. The area where the largest savings could be made is rent. A large proportion of our acreage is on Farm Business Tenancy agreements of varying durations. Greedy landlords now need to be made aware that they cannot command rents equal to, or above, the area payments made for cereals and even as high as the set-aside payment. Potato growers could also do their bit and stop paying silly money. After all, if renting the land is not going to make any profit what is the point of all that time and effort? Something for us all to bear in mind.

The drill was hitched up ready to drill beans in February, but it didnt get out of the shed, says Somerset grower Andrew Hebditch.

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Andrew Hebditch

30 July 1999

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

770ha (1900 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally

linseed

WE had the first of our new machinery delivered last week: A Simba 3.25m Mono200 with 3.3m double press for use on land requiring busting.

There was 36ha (90 acres) of oilseed rape stubble available to try it out, and the temptation was just too great.

With the five busting legs set at just 12in deep, it took all the FW60s 360hp to pull it, admittedly on some of our heaviest ground and steepest banks. The result after some weathering and slug control should be ideal for our Simba Drill.

Early drilling and lower seed rates are attracting much interest this year. Certainly using a disc, press, stale seed-bed and cultivator drill, we intend to start drilling much earlier. Also with large tractors, discs and heavy cultivator drills you do not want to plan much work for October.

In the past we have started mid-September and finished mid-October. But without the restriction of power harrow seed-bed preparation in advance of the drill, our 6m Simba Free Flow drill should reduce our drill period for 400ha (1000 acres) of wheat from 25-30 days to 10-15 days. If we start second week of September, we should be drilled up on wheat well before the end of the month.

Our main wheat varieties will be Malacca, Claire, Consort and possibly one of the feed wheats Savannah, Madrigal or Equinox. For the first time for a decade there is no place for Riband. Of our main varieties, all are suitable for early drilling and are medium to high tillering. Depending on seed-bed conditions, especially moisture, our intention is to start drilling at 150-200 seeds a sq m increasing to 300/sq m by the end of September.

With seed rates cut by up to 50%, I believe we can justify increased spending on seed dressings. On our earliest drillings we will try some Sibutol Secur (bitertanol+fuberidazole+imidacloprid) for early BYDV (Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus) control and some Baytan (fuberidazole+triadimenol) on varieties more at risk from yellow rust. &#42

Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 330ha (815-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

WEATHER permitting we should be combining by the time you read this.

Most crops look well. I think regular rain and a reasonable amount of sunshine this year has suited them. Large cracks in our heavier soils are good news, too, as they will repair some of the damage done in last years sodden harvest.

Winter barley has been sprayed with 2 litres/ha of glyphosate. At about £4.60/ha (£1.90/acre) it is a bargain even without couch to control. A slight moisture reduction at harvest pays for it, and the stubble will be nice and clean for establishing the following oilseed rape.

On our oilseed rape we are using 3 litres/ha of glyphosate and I have decided to do most of this myself. Our sprayer and tractor have quite good clearance but we only have 15m booms. By doing both this and the full flower spray ourselves we save £15/ha (£6/acre), equivalent to 150kg/ha (1.2cwt/acre) of seed. I am sure we wont lose much more seed than from a contractor application, and our timing should be better given the current showery, unsettled weather. But I will probably curse the extra tramlines at harvest.

We have had two weed control disasters this season. In oilseed rape one field had Butisan S (metazachlor) and Falcon (propaquizafop) early post emergence and control was excellent, but the rest had Kerb (propyzamide) and they are a mess. The rampant sow thistles are over 2m high, and shepherds purse, cleavers and chickweed are covering the ground.

Our other weed control problem is with wild oats in spring barley. Commando (flamprop-M-isopropyl) at full rate in 220 litres/ha of water, applied with standard nozzles, appears to have had no effect whatsoever. This is very annoying when were trying very hard to eliminate our wild oat problem.

Both Kerb and Commando will be avoided in future if at all possible.

Next years nitrogen, Hydro Extran, is being delivered at £86/t, payment December. That is our cheapest ever price, but I have a feeling the benefits of early purchase may be limited this year. &#42

Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones farms 175ha

(430 acres) at Hall Farm,

Westbury, Shropshire.

Cereals and potatoes are

rotated with grass and he is

an NFU council member.

Buildings house potato and

cereal seed dressing lines

COMBINING started with winter barley on July 17, one of our earliest starts.

The crop was much better than last years appalling 5t/ha (2t/acre), but at 6.7t/ha (2.7t/acre) it was still disappointing, albeit a very good sample. Winter oats give us a break for wheat and if they perform as well as they look it begs the question whether to drill any barley at all this autumn. We shall know the answer in about a weeks time.

Linseed has at last finished flowering and wheat is turning slowly, as is spring barley.

Routine blight spraying on the potatoes is being disrupted by showery and windy weather patterns, but to date the crops are clean. We are applying Mandate 75 (mancozeb) at 1.7kg/ha and on the seed crop of Hermes adding an aphicide. Both Ministry inspections have been passed without hand roguing which is a credit to the seed supplier.

We expect to have started processing certified seed barley for our local merchants G O Davies by the end of the week. Their variety plans look like centring on Regina, Jewell and Hanna, and wheat varieties Consort, Madrigal and Equinox.

As a large area of cereals in this part of the country follows grass, the ban on Lindane (gamma-HCH) is going to cause a problem. Seemingly there is no cost-effective wireworm dressing available now.

With large amounts of bagged produce stored on the premises it is reassuring to have vermin controlled by our local borough council. Its operators make routine monthly visits, and whenever we report a problem. Not only is the service very effective, but the contract was considerably more competitive than private quotes we had.

With regard to house building, Malcolm and his team completed the slab a month ago. Drains and services are being installed and next week they start the walls. The roof should be on in four months, by which time the rush and panic on the farm should be over. Roll on Christmas! &#42

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch farms

285ha (700 acres) of

owned, tenanted and

share-farmed land at Coat,

Martock, Somerset. Silt

and clay soils support

winter wheat, barley and

oilseed rape, plus spring

peas, linseed and beans

OUR combine moved in to the first field of Fanfare winter barley on July 18.

But the suns refusal to shine for more than 10 minutes at a time and my reluctance to dry, meant that we did not finish our 22ha (55 acres) until five days later. We still had to take out 1% with the crop refusing to drop much below 16% moisture.

Estimated yield is 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), about average for us, with a specific weight of over 70kg/hl. Surprisingly, screenings over a 2.25mm sieve are about 9%, so it is a good job we opted to grow for feed. Barley will be dropped next year, as the figures do not add up with prices less than £70/t.

Next the combine will be in to some swathed oilseed rape, which shows promise, and then in to the area desiccated in early July with 3 litres/ha of Roundup (glyphosate). Wheats are a fortnight away with peas probably coming first.

We will have all first wheats next year as break crops make up 50% of our area this harvest. Our small area of Savannah is looking good, so we will probably home-save that, and use our Buchan for early drilling. Charger will get the chop due to standing ability, unless someone comes up with a big milling premium.

Peas and beans are to stay, as yields are usually good, and linseed probably has another year. Against my better judgement oilseed rape will stay, but on a smaller acreage. My gut feeling is that acreage will be down across Europe and hence area payments should, assuming no overshoot, be up to reasonable levels.

Last week the boys in blue gave our driver carting grain a bit of a slapped wrist and a £20 fine for no registration plates on the trailer. It was a fair cop, but with quad bikes disappearing by the dozen, including ours, and burglary a regular and rarely solved crime locally, one has to ask are the resources aimed in the right direction? &#42

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Andrew Hebditch

7 May 1999

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

770ha (1900 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally

linseed

FINE weather in recent days has at last allowed us to get on with our spray programme.

Advanced wheats had the first half of a split plant growth regulator programme before the wet April weather, but a revised one-hit programme was needed on the remainder. A mix of Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) at 0.2 litres/ha plus a reduced rate of chlormequat went in with Landmark (epoxinconazole + kresoxim-methyl) at 0.5-0.6 litres/ha plus 0.25 litres/ha of Patrol (fenpropidin) where mildew is present or the variety is susceptible. Eagle (amidosulfuron) at 20g/ha is being used to mop up small cleavers or oilseed rape where necessary.

The winter peas were eventually drilled at the end of March. They are emerging evenly and with great vigour. No residual herbicide went on as they are on heavy land and I thought it would be too dry to get effective results. As a result now we will use Pulsar (bentazone + MCPB) and Fortrol (cyanazine), possibly as a split dose treatment, to control broad-leaved weeds.

Such late drilling of winter peas also jeopardises the mid-July harvest, one of the crops main advantages. Mid-August looks more likely this year.

Our oilseed rape is almost in full flower. Half of it is industrial high erucic acid rape (HEAR) which tends to be a few days later to flower. This was treated with UK413 (tebuconazole + mbc) plus chlormequat at stem extension for disease control and more importantly as a growth regulator to prevent early lodging. This is especially important with most of the HEAR varieties.

I believe the sclerotinia risk is high this year, especially with our rotation which includes peas and beans. So we are going to spray in flower at approximately 10 pods set per raceme with Compass (iprodione + thiophonate-methyl) plus cleared formulations of cypermethrin. Magnesium sulphate at 5kg/ha will be added.

All we need now is our high clearance tyres for the JCB. Sam Morton has promised he will deliver them tomorrow. I only hope this fine weather holds.

Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones farms 175ha

(430 acres) at Hall Farm,

Westbury, Shropshire.

Cereals and potatoes are

rotated with grass and he is

an NFU council member.

Buildings house potato and

cereal seed dressing lines

WEATHER has still managed to dominate proceedings here in the past month and has hampered clearing up spring planting.

However, spring barley has emerged quickly and is growing well. Barbara linseed is in the ground and will hopefully emerge faster in this warmer weather to make up for later drilling. Potato planting ground to a halt but we should be back in action over the bank holiday.

Spraying is up to date, though we have had to dodge frosts and rain. Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) was applied to oats for the first time as Terpals (ethephon) recommendation appears to have been withdrawn. Fortress (quinoxyfen) will hopefully keep the crop clear of mildew through to harvest, and they should be on course to match last years yield of 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre). Sadly that was more than the wheat.

Bryce, our agronomist, recommended we mix Fortress and Landmark (epoxiconazole + kresoxim-methyl) on the wheat too, in an attempt to boost our crops resistance to mildew which tends to be a big problem here in the wetter west. Where crops are thin, or following oats last year, we have increased the rate of Cheetah S (fenoxaprop-P-ethyl) for wild oats from the usual 0.5 litres/ha to 0.6 litres/ha.

Winter barley received a mix of Amistar (azoxystrobin) plus Corbel (fenpropimorph) and is now at ear emergence. Hopefully the next machine in the field will be our new combine!

We could do with catching up on field work as it is our County Show – The Shropshire and West Midland – in two weeks time. Besides a social and business occasion, our County NFU uses the opportunity to meet the public and perhaps dispel some of the myths and concerns they have over the food we produce and the countryside we farm.

Last year the focus was on pesticides. This year it will be sheep, with shearing, spinning, and weaving demonstrations, plus displays of sheep meat, and other species of animals all in one marquee. Why not call in and see us?

Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 330ha (815-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

AS SOON as I boasted about how well our wheat looked last month it started to show signs of manganese deficiency. Two fields limed last year really looked quite sick by the time it was dry enough to spray. Although the deficiency itself is cheaply rectified, it is a sure sign that these crops are poorly rooted. That doesnt bode well for a bumper season.

Barley always needs manganese here, and this year I have used manganese seed-dressing on all the spring barley as deficiencies often show before there is much leaf to take up a spray. It is certainly looking well despite severe frosts and five days of fog which allowed the slugs to feast. But I shouldnt say that – the crop will probably keel over now!

Most unsprayed winter cereals are still remarkably weed-free; I can only imagine the capped and slumped soil prevented germination. Starane (fluroxypyr) on the headlands will be the only herbicide used in these fields and Im quite happy to tolerate the odd weed for a welcome £11/ha (£4/acre) saving.

Nearly all the nitrogen is on. Chariot and Optic spring barley has had all its 100kg/ha (80 units/acre) but Maresi for the high-nitrogen malting market will get a further 40kg/ha (32 units/acre) at stem extension. Hopefully this will boost yield and compensate for the lower premium over feed.

Like most farmers I detest paperwork. I am happy to spend time on IACS forms as they are worth lots of money. I even tolerate Scottish Quality Cereals administration as most of it is needed for our records anyway. But Local Environment Risk Assessments for Pesticides – LERAPs? No-thanks!

Water courses do need protection but this carry on is too complicated. Here we have tackled buffer-zones by eliminating them. No crops are sown within 6m of any water course. These strips are in the excellent Scottish Countryside Premium Scheme, generate £400/ha (£160/acre), and work wonders for wildlife. I also have more chance of staying sane.

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch farms

285ha (700 acres) of

owned, tenanted and

share-farmed land at Coat,

Martock, Somerset. Silt

and clay soils support

winter wheat, barley and

oilseed rape, plus spring

peas, linseed and beans

APRIL was a month of extremes: A warm and showery start was followed by 100mm (4in) of wet, heavy snow, then 50mm (2in) of rain, and finally near 20C (68F) temperatures at the end of the month.

Winter oilseed rape is now in full flower and looks a promising crop. Columbus lodged slightly under the weight of the snow, but hopefully no lasting damage was done, and Apex is still all upright. About 40% of the crop was treated with 2.0 litres/ha of Compass (iprodione + thiophanate-methyl) at early petal fall to ward off sclerotinia. The rest is considered low risk so was left unsprayed.

Linseed and combining peas have emerged evenly and seem to be growing away well. Broad-leaved weeds will soon have to be tackled in the linseed, probably with a low rate of Ally (metsulfuron-methyl). Pre-emergence Opoguard (terbuthylazine + terbutryn) is still working in the peas, but in two fields some redshank and fat-hen have survived. There are 50 weeds/sq m in places so we will have to bear the cost and apply a post-em, probably Basagran (bentazone), on the 9ha (23 acres) affected.

All wheat has had its fungicide at GS32. On the whole crops are on course for target yields, so we went with Landmark (epoxiconazole + kresoxim-methyl) at 0.5 litres/ha. With extreme septoria pressure and some yellow rust in a lush field of Riband already, the chemical will be put to a stiff test. Cheetah S (fenoxaprop-P-methyl) at 1.0 litre/ha went in the tank-mix to combat wild oats plus 1.25 litres/ha of Cycocel (chlormequat + choline chloride) to keep things upright. As an extra precaution on Hussar and Charger 0.15 litres/ha of Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) was added.

Recently I spotted contractors for the local council back-pack spraying on our recreation ground. Yet I could not see any signs to alert the public to the fact. I thought any application in a public place, including footpaths across our land, needed to be sign-posted. Are we all working to the same rules?

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Andrew Hebditch

9 April 1999

Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

SPRING has sprung: The sun is shining, the fields are drying and work is progressing.

Our 75 ha (185 acres) of spring barley, much more than normal, is all drilled with Optic, Chariot and Maresi. Conditions seemed good with dust flying but underneath the soil was still very wet. I felt we were going too soon for our heavy-land but I have no faith in the weather any more. How spring barley will cope with slumped soil remains to be seen.

The late sown winter barley is still thin and backward, despite 60kg/ha (48 units/acre) of nitrogen and a spray of chlormequat and manganese. It is hard to see these being bumper crops.

Oilseed rape also seems slow to get going this spring. Folicur (tebuconazole) has been sprayed at 0.5 litres/ha and a total of 210kg/ha (168 units/acre) of nitrogen is now on. I suppose that is far too much given the appalling price of rapeseed but I would rather have a big yield and hope for a better price by sale time.

Wheats do look well, which is good news. Chlormequat and manganese will be applied as they approach GS31 and Ill try my best to keep the fertiliser spreader out of these crops for as long as possible. Hopefully, no fungicide will be needed until GS32.

Weeds are virtually absent in some unsprayed cereals and anything that does emerge at this stage should be controlled with low rates.

We have just taken on another 55ha (136 acres) of land, two-thirds of which is arable. Our existing machinery should cope easily enough, so long as we dont get a repeat of last years appalling conditions.

Arable businesses on our scale must expand if we are to thrive in the long term. Machinery is ever more capable but also more expensive so overheads have to be spread over more land. Smaller enterprises will have to cut fixed costs and rely on more contract operations in future.

Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones farms 175ha

(430 acres) at Hall Farm,

Westbury, Shropshire.

Cereals and potatoes are

rotated with grass and he is

an NFU council member.

Buildings house potato and

cereal seed dressing lines

BRITISH Summertime brings welcome light evenings and field work has at last started. No spring crops have been drilled as I write. However, if the weather holds Easter weekend will be pretty hectic.

Our winter cereals have had 64kg/ha (51 units/acre) of nitrogen with the next application due at GS31-32, expected about mid-April. At that stage wheats will be treated with Cycocel (chlormequat + choline chloride) and Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) where necessary to boost rooting, plus a fungicide. Oats will have the Moddus/Cycocel mix plus Fortress (quinoxyfen).

Bryce, our agronomist, has noted areas of wild and tame oats which we will tackle with low-rate patch sprays of Cheetah (fenoxaprop-P-ethyl), a technique which worked well here last year.

While in the fields I have noticed an apparent increase in wildlife on the farm. Whether this is due to a mild winter or unsprayed over-winter stubbles I dont know. Besides the rooks, which we could well do without, hares have returned, there are more lapwings and skylarks, and for the second year running a large number of swans have overwintered.

The swans are a mixed blessing. They are a magnificent sight but they do seem to know exactly where new seeds were sown. Even though I am not much of an ornithologist the other day Jill and I counted over 40 species of birds here.

April sees the arrival of yet more regulations with registrations for pesticide disposal and the launch of LERAPs (Local Environment Risk Assessment for Pesticides). Last week I picked up from the NFU that yet another charge to the industry is possible under the title "Climate Change Levy", which if implemented could cost the industry millions. No doubt we will hear more.

Back to farm matters and we have borrowed a Shakerator to break up pans and get some air into our pretty sodden ground. I am not sure whether this is sensible, or just desperation to get our spring crops planted. Only time will tell.

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

770ha (1900 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally

linseed

THE farm sale has come and gone and the yard looks empty. It is a funny feeling but at least we will be filling it up again with new machinery, albeit fewer pieces but of a much larger size.

We kept our JCB 2150 and Airtec sprayer and thats been flat out finishing off the liquid nitrogen top dressing on oilseed rape, bringing the total to 210 kg/ha plus sulphur. It is now out spraying forward wheats with the first of a split chlormequat dose, Eagle (amidosulfuron) at 20g/ha and Bravo 500 (chlorothalonil) at up to 1.0 litre/ha. The Eagle is to tackle cleavers and small volunteer oilseed rape, while the Bravo will protect new growth. Manganese was included where necessary. The second chlormequat will go on at GS31 with a strobilurin fungicide.

We still have 36ha (90 acres) of peas to drill on heavyish land. As little as possible will be done to produce a seed-bed, making the most of the weathered surface tilth. It is drying out well and they should be drilled over Easter.

Our "new" tractor, a second-hand FW60, arrived last weekend. It is 10-years-old but has low hours and is in very good condition overall. We intend using its 360hp for draw-bar work only. As we have not yet taken delivery of any of the new establishment kit it looks rather lonely in the tractor shed all on its own, and it is no use for the remaining spring drilling.

The decision to have a sale proved to be the right option. All the main items – Parmiter & Quivogne discs, a six furrow semi-mounted Kverneland plough, Norton trailers and three John Deere tractors – made well over the price we expected. Our 2388 Case combine and the MB1100 and sprayer clawed their way over the reserve leaving only the three-year-old, 6m Sulky SPI drill unsold. Farm sales never cease to amaze me!

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch farms

285ha (700 acres) of

owned, tenanted and

share-farmed land at Coat,

Martock, Somerset. Silt

and clay soils support

winter wheat, barley and

oilseed rape, plus spring

peas, linseed and beans

MARCH weather could not have been better here, with all our spring drilling completed by Mar 28, followed by some steady rain. Perhaps things are looking up.

Wheat and barley were at GS30 by mid-March, so with warm days forecast we applied 1.0 litre/ha of Bettaquat and 1.25 litres/ha of Barleyquat (chlormequat + activator) plus 25g/ha of Eagle (amidosulfuron) to wheat and barley, respectively. The premium paid on this growth regulator is justified by its better uptake in colder early spring conditions.

We will go all out for yield with this years barley. Low malting premiums and difficulties with high screenings for the last two seasons mean going for the malting market is rather risky.

Elan combining peas are all in. A pass with the Triple-K cultivator followed by drilling at 240kg/ha (2 cwt/acre) should give us about 70 plants / sq m. All 32ha (80 acres) have been rolled and treated with 3.0 litres/ha of Opoguard (terbuthylazine + terbutryn) to give some broad-leaf weed control.

Final nitrogen has been applied to the oilseed rape at 100kg/ha (80 units/acre). The plants are growing so rapidly in the warm weather we had difficulty raising the spreader high enough over the crop canopy to get a full pattern.

The last job in March was to drill the linseed. Emergence should be rapid as it has gone in to a fine well prepared seed-bed at 60 kg/ha (0.5cwt/acre). Given the early drilling hopefully harvest date will be brought forward. It seems that the crop has also been given a stay of execution in the recent Agenda 2000 agreements, so it might feature for one more year.

Most crops look promising and with favourable weather over the next few months harvest prospects are not so bleak as they were. Only one ewe is left to lamb so sleepless nights are as good as over and losses in the field have been minimal with the kind weather. Lets hope it lasts.

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Andrew Hebditch

20 November 1998

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch farms

285ha (700 acres) of

owned, tenanted and

share-farmed land at Coat,

Martock, Somerset. Silt

and clay soils support

winter wheat, barley and

oilseed rape, plus spring

peas, linseed and beans

WE finished drilling at Martock on Oct 18, just about on schedule for us. Between then and the end of the month 100mm (3.9 in) of rain fell and fieldwork has been severely limited since.

Hussar, Charger and Riband wheats are now at the three leaf stage. Charger is a new variety for us, slotting in as a second wheat after a successful trial last year. Full rate methiocarb has gone on all cereals and some have needed a second dose. Now everything seems to be establishing well.

My agronomist and I have decided that grass and broad-leaved weed control will again revolve around ipu at 1500-2500g of active/ha depending on soil type and seedbed quality. Mecoprop will be added for volunteer oilseed rape and if the warm weather continues so will cypermetherin.

Our 80ha (200 acres) of oilseed rape, including industrial crops on set-aside, is mostly covering the ground well with 4-8 leaves. However, 20ha (50 acres) late drilled on Sept 21 is more backward, and is yet to get the 1.0 litre/ha of cycloxydim and 1.25 litres/ha metazachlor plus oil tank-mix which has gone on elsewhere. Some serious blackgrass and ryegrass is now at the two leaf stage but fortunately it seems to have stopped growing for now.

Fields destined for either spring peas or beans have had P and K applied down the stubble tramlines and linseed fields will get about 10t/ha (4t/acre) of broiler litter once stubble turnips are eaten off in January. Together that is 80ha (200 acres) of spring crops, and to date we have only ploughed a tenth of it. With some light land on the farm it is unusual for us not to be able to find any ground that will work.

At the time of writing the weather seems to have settled. Long may it continue as we need a week or two to clear the backlog of outstanding work.

New Farmer Focus writer Andrew Hebditch is relieved winter cereal drilling is complete on his Somerset farm. Even on lighter land fieldwork for spring crops had ground to a halt last week.

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