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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

SCOTTISH TRIALS HIT

POOR grain set played havoc with results from recommended list trials in Aberdeen and Kelso this season.

Blind sites were noted on many varieties, but Equinox, Reaper, Caxton and Hereward seem to have been most badly hit. With Equinox in particular, yields are just over half of those from other regions.

"Its a mystery why this happened, but weather must have played an important part," says NIABs John Ramsbottom. Late frosts were recorded in the region. "Its not unusual to see blind grain sites, but generally not on such a scale as to affect yields significantly."

NIAB debated long and hard, whether to include these results in the recommended list database. "After industry consultation, it was decided to include the data, because it appears to be the result of a genotype/environment interaction, so there is a varietal link," says Mr Ramsbottom.

The distorting effect of the Scottish results is diluted by the large data matrix upon which the recommended list scores are based. However, it does affect yield scores slightly. For example, Equinoxs treated yield rating of 103 rises to 104, if the Aberdeen results are excluded.

As a precaution, the Aberdeen and Kelso results are included in a separate chart within the new 1998 UK recommended list. "We cant say whether this might happen again," says Mr Ramsbottom. "In no way do we want to over-emphasise the importance of this data, but feel it should be brought to growers attention."

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

PIRELLI has joined the list of tyre manufacturers with a 65-series radial for fast and safe road use. The TM800 range, in sizes from a 480/65 R 28 TL up to a 650/65 R 38 TL, is claimed to set new standards.

RED sprayers from Case IH made their first public appearance following the takeover of Gem Sprayers in June. The first three changes are the Case 2500 SP self-propelled machine, the 3000 TS trailed sprayer with hydraulic damping, and the 1200 MS mounted sprayer.

MERLO underpinned its range of telescopic handlers with the P26.6 EVT which has the ability to take 2.6t to 5.98m.

A SOLUTION to poor traction on small wheeled vehicles working in mud or snow is offered by Felasto Pur, of Beverstedt, Germany. Their track-like polyurethane mouldings fit neatly round the driving wheels at a cost of around £1,000 per wheel.

THE OMNISTAR 3000L digital GPS receiver is now available in Europe in various guises including a portable backpack which can be used for mapping fields on foot. German company, Satcon System, has also introduced a digital data logger. Its Satograph can also be used on foot or mounted in a vehicle, and has been used by officials in parts of Europe to check set-aside claims.

KUHN launched its Performer series of seedbed cultivators based on a combination of levelling board, tube roller, spring tines, bar roller, crosskill roller and a tine harrow. Available in 4.5m or 6m working widths, it has a folded transport width of 2.95m.

STOLL, whose UK agents are Western Machinery, introduced its Dm410,000 six-row beet harvester with a 10t tank.

RAU is producing a front-mounted version of its Sterntiller cultivator. It is available for front-mounting in 2.5m and 3m widths, and in various sizes, including a new semi-mounted 6m model, for use behind a 150hp tractor.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

MITES, mice and mycotoxins. There were enough horror stories at last months quality assurance and traceability in grain storage symposium to keep the consumer press busy for days, had they been there.

Chairman Mike Kelly of independent pest consultancy the Acheta Partnership, co-hosts with the RASE, kicked off by describing the sea change in grain storage and pest control fuelled by quality assurance.

"The food industry, whether of its own accord, or probably from external pressure, has been upgrading its standards, which are now being pushed down the line to the farming community, the last bastion of old habits."

Alistair Tucker of British Bakeries, home of the Hovis loaf, went on to describe how food scares were now "like open warfare" and were bound to appear on the front pages of the tabloids. So the best defence was to present a whiter than white case.

"We spend a lot of time on our back foot, trying to convince people what was wrong has been put right," he said. An assurance scheme, on the other hand, shows things are being done right, right from the start.

He believed that all wheat for breadmaking would ultimately be assured wheat, and that biscuit and cake makers would follow suit. While he couldnt give a timescale, he did think it might be sooner than many anticipated.

One of the tenets of the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme is that a crop in the store should be treated just like a crop in the field. Just as you would check the growing crops for inputs, so you should check regularly that stored crops are in good condition, he said.

Supporters

But even the most committed supporters of QA might have their best intentions thwarted if pesticide resistance in insects and mites develops. And Ken Wildey of the Central Science Laboratory believes it is.

Of the mite strains collected in surveys of farm and commercial grain stores, plus animal feed mills and oilseed stores between 1987 and 1995, high percentages survived exposures of 14 days to 8ppm of pirimiphos-methyl (Actellic), twice the maximum approved dose.

"In the 1970s and 80s, we were accused of scaremongering, but time has caught up with us," he announced. "Weve never seen mite infestations like this before."

Organophosphates are naturally poor pesticides in terms of mite control, said Dr Wildey, but more reliance has been placed on them now that organochlorine products such as Lindane (gamma-HCH) are no longer available for use on grain. "We need something completely different, such as a new chemical group to control mites," he added.

In the same surveys, phosphine resistance was also detected in a number of beetle strains, such as the saw-tooth grain beetle. Resistance here was at an earlier stage which should still allow control to be achieved in practice, he added. No need for excitement, he said. Yet.

But, for mites, given that no chemical alternatives are currently approved for admixture with grain, failure to control strains resistant to organophosphate pesticides is likely to add to existing contamination problems in cereal-based foodstuffs.

Mites are enough of a cause for concern in terms of the scale and frequency of their presence alone. An estimated 21% of cereal-based products purchased retail are contaminated with mites, and an alarming 15% of baby foods. One particular worry is the allergenic consequence of contamination; a clinical study is currently monitoring the health effects of such a challenge, said Dr Wildey.

"The study glosses over the question whether customers know theyre there, far less whether they want them there. And I wont mention research in the United States which suggests that mites might be able to replicate scrapie-carrying prions." He also casually mentioned that the poultry red mite, one of the predatory mites detected in food on the supermarket shelves, is a blood sucking ectoparasite!

Next, Keith Scudamore of KAS Mycotoxins, an independent consultant, gave an update on these unseen contaminants, the toxic products of fungal infections such as cereal moulds.

Mycotoxins are generally present only at very low levels, but they are very toxic, explained Mr Scudamore. The difficulty is deciding just how important they are. In sufficient quantity, mycotoxins in cereals undoubtedly do cause illness and death in less developed countries where there are high levels of contamination by mould, he said. But in the UK the problem was one of quality, not toxicity.

However, the Food Advisory Committee advises that all attempts should be made to minimise levels of ochratoxin A (OTA) in the human diet, and aflatoxin B1 in animal compounds.

Aflatoxin control

Aflatoxin control, introduced in animal feed in 1980 and in nuts and dried figs in 1992, is likely to be extended to cereals under a new EC ruling by the end of 2000. The irony is that, although this mycotoxin is one of the most potent liver carcinogens known to man, its unlikely to be present in home-grown cereals, as UK temperatures are normally too low for their development, said Mr Scudamore.

On the other hand, OTA is more likely to be found in UK-grown and stored cereals, but isnt covered by legislation. Some nations are very strongly pressing for OTA testing in a range of commodities, including cereals. This could cause some problems to the UK trade, since 2-5% of UK cereals – about a million tonnes – would exceed the probable limit.

Under the new rules, throughout the food chain the onus will be on the owner to ensure grain doesnt contain the specified toxins above set limits. This, said Mr Scudamore, could lead to possible conflict and raises questions about whether testing should take place on loading or emptying the grain store.

As far as prevention is concerned, rate of drying after harvest is one of the most important factors, he stressed. Moulds can form within two or three days, so mycotoxins have the potential to occur wherever a bulk of grain is drying slowly. He didnt consider it good practice to mix clean with infected grain to reduce the load artificially.

Quality assurance in grain storage faces some serious threats, writes Tia Rund.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

MANY people recall a countryside populated with a wider range of wild plants and animals, than can be seen today. Scientific studies of biodiversity prove that this is more than just nostalgia; there are fewer species surviving.

Changing agricultural practices are partly to blame, said Professor Phil Grime of the University of Sheffield. The dominance of fewer species through the use of fertiliser and simple rotations, and excessive soil disturbance are examples.

But scientists disagree as to whether or not declining biodiversity is necessarily a bad thing in terms of a sustainable ecosystem. Some of the most ancient habitats such as heath and bog contain few species, he explained.

"That said, diversity is important as part of our national heritage and regional identity. There are ways that agriculture could help protect diversity – for example, by including specific weed seeds on set-aside to feed certain endangered birds."

Climate change will affect biodiversity. Extreme weather will reduce species numbers, but this could be offset by new warm temperature species invading the south east from the rest of Europe, suggested Prof Grime.

US research is testing the theory that mixed plant populations may be better able to survive weather changes than single species arable systems. Early results indicate that greater biodiversity is more resilient up to a point – but Prof Grime commented that single species systems may be better able to bounce back when conditions revert. "It seems as though the dominant plants in any ecosystem have the most impact – and not necessarily the number of different species."

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

HYOLA HIGHLIGHTS

THE Hyola rape story does not end with the spring rapes joining the 1998 Recommended List. Canadians will have a herbicide-resistant spring hybrid next year and winter variants are being tested in Europe.

Howard Morris, who heads the Advanta breeding programme in Canada which produced the Hyola varieties just launched in the UK, expects herbicide-tolerant spring rapes to have around 80% of the Canadian market by 2000. Current Advanta biotechnology work is concentrating on introducing genes resistant to diseases such as sclerotinia and alternaria.

Advanta has taken out licences for the tolerance genes to both glyphosate (Roundup) and glufosinate-ammonium (Liberty/Challenge). Mr Morris says trials have shown no difficulties in using either chemical safely, even on rape crops under stress. But it appears that under Canadian conditions, at least, two herbicide applications are necessary. The breeding programme also includes the introduction of quality oil traits into rape varieties with hybrid vigour.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

GOVERNMENT and growers both had their say at Perth on CAP reform. For one side it was a generally good idea; for the other an approach that could wipe oilseeds from the Scottish rotation.

Scottish minister of agriculture Lord Sewel said Government support for the Agenda 2000 proposals was not unequivocal but he was still at a loss to answer fully critics who saw a clear threat to combinable crops in Scotland.

The main concern among the leading farmers present was the severe impact on oilseed rape of a reduction in support prices to that of wheat, itself due a 20% cut in aid.

NFU cereals convener Douglas Morrison predicted Agenda 2000 could spell the end of oilseeds production for Scottish growers who were already switching to wheat away from malting barley. With oilseeds likely to be a main target for the US in forthcoming world trade talks, the future was very uncertain for the sector.

Lord Sewel pointed out that deep cuts in production were the only policy option available under an unreformed CAP to deal with surpluses, including 58m tonnes of cereals in intervention by 2005. Even this European Commission figure was an underestimate, given that it assumes 17.5% set-aside in the intervening years.

"Production cuts would have to be deep, with set-aside rates going up to an eye-watering 25% or beyond. Reform of the CAP suddenly looks like a reasonable alternative."

Lord Sewel further criticised the CAP as a highly inefficient way of helping rural communities while encouraging farming practices which damaged the environment. He warned that taking the present CAP to new EU member States in eastern Europe would be hugely expensive. "Ironically, countries which were long lambasted for the inefficiencies of their centrally managed systems now operate farming policies which, though far from perfect, are mostly a good deal closer to world markets than the CAP," he said.

Change would lead to an economically sustainable industry into which the brightest and best of new entrants could come once subsidy was no longer capitalised in high land values. Lord Sewel also urged farmers to stop whinging about the power of the supermarkets whose success came from gaining the trust of the consumer and supplying what he or she wanted.

PRECISION APPLICATIONS

THE advent of precise soil mapping and satellite-controlled equipment to make variable spreading possible has highlighted a "scandal" in nutrient application, said crop consultant Dr Keith Dawson.

Liming, in particular, was still being carried out with a broad-spectrum approach which was often not justified by the soil analyses from fields. Variability of nutrient requirement within fields could be as much as five-fold, said Dr Dawson, of Perth-based CSC Cropcare.

Spending around £1.85/ha (75p/acre) per year could save 10-15% on a farms basal fertiliser bill. Not only was there a financial and agronomic benefit but there was an environmental advantage through fertiliser only going to those parts of the field which really needed it. However, he expected GPS technology to be limited for the near future to lime, P and K application, followed in the north by variable seed rates.

Dr Dawson said disease control had the greatest impact on costs after nitrogen. He favoured tackling fungal disease at very low levels of infection with targeted rates rather than waiting for higher infection levels and using higher rates of fungicide.

MALTING CONTRACTS

MALTING barley growers have been "taken to the cleaners", admitted Berwick maltster David McCreath. Contracts had been "bastardised" by some operators, he said, and the malting industry had used this to its own benefit. "I think it is a disgrace," said Mr McCreath.

However, he suggested that, since for Scotland, the distilling industry is more important than brewing, one future route for growers would be to take out longer contracts of three to four years which could give all parties a greater stability.

There was potential for malt exports from Scotland which had an advantage in nitrogens over the Danes and the French who had to use low price as their main competitive weapon. Demand for malt was rising steadily and there were signs buyers would pay for the correct specifications.

Mr McCreath also urged cereal growers to consider their options to avoid being a weak seller of grain. Storage could be vital in some years to avoid selling at the bottom of the market. They could also hedge against the market by following strategies such as selling a third forward, a third at harvest and holding on to the rest.

STAND TOGETHER

ONE way of overcoming the weakness of growers in the marketplace was suggested by Alan Whiteford, of Highland Grain, who was one of the prime movers behind Scottish Quality Cereals.

He too criticised the existing system of farmers doing business with maltsters through a contract handled by a merchant who was inevitably the servant of the maltster and not the grower. However, Mr Whiteford said farmers must accept blame for making a rod for their own back.

"For too long the industry has blamed everyone else for its ills; supermarkets, merchants, and of course everyones favourite kicking horse, the maltster," he said. "But in truth, blame rests closer to home."

Mr Whiteford suggested the current culture of each farm making unilateral decisions put the industrys future post-CAP reform in serious jeopardy. "True, there is some co-operative marketing but it is still insignificant and fragmented. Until we attempt to take some control of the supply, we will continue to be dealt with harshly by a much stronger and unified market."

LOOK EAST

THE search for real profits from arable farming without subsidy has moved eastwards but Chris Graf Grote, of Farmwealth, warned it is paved with pitfalls.

He even admitted that he might advise a wealthy overseas investor with sufficient resources to invest in East Anglian farmland and the stability offered by the UK.

However, few farmers or other investors looking to expand overseas had the wherewithal to buy large portions of land at UK prices. In Poland, Czech Republic or Romania, the cost of land or rent for 1,000ha (2,470 acres) could be a fraction of that in the UK. Whereas a UK holding of that size might make a loss if subsidies were withdrawn, healthy profits were possible from combinable crops in the three eastern countries.

On paper, Romania offers the greatest potential. But potential investors in eastern Europe had to be clear about their intentions. Always allow twice the time and twice the money from their impressions, and work with a trusted local partner.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

From hundreds of entries a winner for the Vogel and Noot plough has been picked.

Thanks to the many hundreds of you who entered our competition to win a Vogel and Noot plough and congratulations to our winner Geoff Woolley whose ranking of six important machine features were the closest to those of the judges.

Mr Woolley, of Barbers Hill House, Aunby near Stamford, Lincs, takes delivery of a four furrow Vogel and Noot MS950 worth nearly £10,000. With 142ha (355 acres), it should be a good fit on his farm. Currently he uses a four furrow Niemeyer, bought three years ago as an ex-demonstrator machine. Mr Woolley appreciates its size and the amount of clearance it affords.

Not surprisingly, then, Mr Woolley placed free flow of trash second behind strength of headstock and beam, which he, the judges and one in every three entrants put in the top slot.

The ability to penetrate dry hard soils, durability of wearing parts and ease of adjustment, according to our competition postbag, were judged to be of minor significance.

But a very large number of you – about 40% – rated complete furrow inversion of prime importance. Have we uncovered some universal dissatisfaction here? Alistair Paterson, Vogel and Noots managing director, said that hed been aware of some worries, especially in Scotland, but hadnt appreciated the scale of the concern. Full inversion, he added, was one of the areas where the MS950 scored over its rivals.

Since the straw burning ban and the introduction of set-aside, its little wonder that a ploughs ability to make a tidy job of burying crop residues has assumed greater priority. And now, with the move towards rotational ploughing (ploughing one year in two, or one in three, with minimum or low tillage in the intervening years), this quality is likely to become even more important.

Mr Woolleys land is ploughed annually, and he does the job – and all the others – himself. Soils range from light, limestone brash to quite heavy clay, and can be quite patchy even within the same field. His cropping comprises winter wheat, spring barley, oilseed rape and sugar beet.

Preparation for the beet, which is grown on the lighter land, comprises autumn ploughing, then usually a single pass with the power harrow, but sometimes preceded with the spring tines, just ahead of the drill.

On the remainder, Mr Woolley tends to go straight in with a Maschio/Accord 3m power harrow/drill combination, though one particular field needs an extra pass with the power harrow.

A 103hp Landini 10,000 has displaced a Ford 7810 from ploughing duties by virtue of better lift capacity, although its a more basic machine. "I havent yet been lured by electro-hydraulic transmissions," says Mr Woolley. "Im happy enough with levers."

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Farming recently came under discussion on BBC Radio 4. When the topic moved to falling farm incomes and subsidies, one participant remarked that farmers should be treated like miners. No one disagreed with that comment. The message was clear, agriculture should be treated like any other industry, it should not be given special treatment. If businesses are not viable, let them fail.

I was shocked to hear that food production, peoples lives and the survival of rural communities could be dismissed so easily. But, the unthinkable happened to mining. A once great industry was left to decline and virtually disappear, regardless of the livelihoods and communities totally dependent upon it for their survival.

So, what will happen to farming? Its a fact of life that the profitability of large sections of our industry are dependent upon subsidies. Yet, despite these subsidies, many within agriculture still face difficult times. Our industry has grown into its subsidies and built them into its cost structure. They are reflected in the price of land, rents, wages, machinery and input costs.

But, how secure are these subsidies? We now have a government that will consider cutting benefits to the disabled – a section of the population that enjoys considerably more public sympathy than cereal barons.

Happily, our fortunes are cushioned by Europe. We can relax and settle back, in the knowledge that our futures will sink or swim with those of the more highly valued French or German farmers.

The European link will provide us with a buffer for many years to come. But it will not give total protection. Whenever UK farmers can be denied money for political reasons, they will be. For instance, the £980m compensation which the UK agricultural industry is entitled to under the CAP will not be paid in full, although we are part of a common European agricultural policy.

Ireland claimed compensation under the same scheme. The money then enabled Irish beef producers to receive a higher level of support than their UK competitors – and then dump their beef into UK markets.

Over the past few years, many growers made decisions that are fuelling current financial worries. Encouraged by subsidies and high cereal prices, share farming and rental agreements were entered into with rental equivalents of £375 to £450/ha for moderate quality land, and land was purchased at £8,000 to £10,000/ha. Using forward projections, the decisions looked sound at the time. Now, the reality of lower returns makes them look foolhardy.

A sign of changing farming fortunes is shown by Sentry Farming, an all arable farming company listed on the stock market. It has seen its shares fall from a high earlier in the year of £1.67 to an end of year price of 91p. If the outlook remains bleak, many who have invested their money into farming, but are not committed to the land, will get out, taking their money with them.

Those who have already invested their hearts, souls and a large amount of their lives into farming will keep farming as long as they can make a living. If necessary, accepting a lower standard than the one they have become accustomed to.

If keeping subsidies is a priority then agriculture must play to its strengths. One factor making it substantially different to other industries and in need of protection is its responsibility for the countryside.

The most sustainable way of justifying continued support is by linking payments to specific environmental benefits. It will not be as convenient as receiving area payments but it would be much better than receiving none at all.

Norfolk arable grower Marie Skinner anguishes over the farming industrys future .

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

EXHIBITORS were pleasantly surprised at the attendance and positive mood of growers visiting the Grain 97 event at the National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh.

"Its an encouraging end to a very good year for us," said Ian Turner of drier maker Law-Denis Engineering. "Many growers have cut back on field machinery investment but feel they can still justify expenditure on fixed equipment. As one grower put it, a good drier and storage installation can add value to what you bring off the field, and give you more marketing flexibility."

Richard Flach of bulk drying systems company, Flach & Le-Roy, agreed that business has held up well. He is optimistic that it will stay that way next year but beyond that he is more doubtful that UK growers will be in a position to spend enthusiastically on capital projects.

Many Grain 97 visitors also had the temporary 50% capital investment tax allowance in mind, as well as the current emphasis on crop assurance that demands clean, well-managed stores.

Elsewhere, companies also recognised that some growers want to pay less for new drying facilities. Opico has trimmed £2,120 and £2,600 off its two smallest portable driers, while Danagri 3S has knocked £3,500 off its T2 10t/hr cascade drier. The pay-off, in both cases, is that specifications have been simplified.

Lingward of Pelham, which makes timber drying floors, flagged price cuts due to cheaper imported hardwood prices thanks to the strength of the pound.

For all these incentives, though, many growers simply see this as a good a time as any to replace or upgrade facilities if the need is there. As BDCs David Owen put it: "Some farmers say they had better spend now before it gets any worse."

Technical tweaks rather than brand new technologies were the order of the day at this years Grain 97 event. Peter Hill scoured the exhibits for techno-titbits.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

EUROPEs farm machinery makers are clear where they see the markets of the future – in bigger machines for bigger farms with bigger budgets.

The extra cash being demanded of farmers is for more sophisticated equipment incorporating the latest in control software but very often giving the user a state-of-the-art package which is on the surface simple to operate despite the complexity of its build. The stepless automatic gear changing for tractors now being developed by many manufacturers is a typical example.

Agritechnica 97 gave the farming public its first opportunity to see tractors equipped with either the Fendt, Claas, Steyr-Daimler-Puch or ZF power-split systems which allow variable gearing throughout the drive range. All four systems won DLG gold medals in the shows innovations awards category although they have still to undergo the full scrutiny of the DLG (German Agricultural Society) field testing scheme.

Other gold medal winners this year included an electronic control unit for limiting tractor power and fuel used. Developed by the German company Valtra, it is designed to allow maximum engine power only to be released when some of that power is being diverted for pto use. As well as saving fuel through better injection control, the system means that tractors can be specified with drive transmissions and axles designed for the lower performance with which they have to cope.

The Arcus combine harvester, which won a gold medal for its makers MDW, from the east of Germany, appeared at the show in either the manufacturers blue or the red of the companys ultimate owner – Case. Either way, it won the award for a chute rotor system with two axial rotors. Its most unusual feature, however, were the two permanent drive, front-steered wheels which were smaller in diameter than the following pair.

Normal combine harvesters are limited to a road speed of 20 kph in Germany but the front-steering design makes it permissible to use the Arcus between fields at up to 40 kph.

Ground working equipment did not come out particularly strongly in the awards. Dutzi were the exception with the ground-driven Phoenix for initial weed pulverisation and working down chopped straw and stubble. Each rotor is linked to form a chain.

A number of manufacturers, including some of the big makers, rolled out new tractors in sizes ranging from the 48hp Carraro Ergit to a 450hp Horsch three-wheeled platform. Valmet even came up with a new name Valtra Tractors (UK) on their new four-model M100 range.

Designated as the 600, 700, 800 and 900, the new tractors use either the three-cylinder Valmet 320 or four-cylinder 420 engines in naturally aspirated or turbocharged forms. Key to these engines, ranging from 60-90hp, is the claim of 20% more torque than the engines in the previous M5 range. A choice of three transmissions is available but the 700, 800 and 900 models get 16 forward and eight reverse gears as standard, with a new splitter giving 15% overdrive.

Valmet remains true to its principle of custom building to order. While the turbocharged models get a standard Autocontrol electronic linkage management system, it is among the wide range of options for the other models.

An innovation to be introduced further up the Valmet range won the company one of the DLGs gold medals for technical innovation. Sigma Power is an electronic system which senses the degree of engine power needed at the pto shaft and delivers that according to demand.

John Deeres 6010 Series tractors made their European debut with eight models from 80 to 135hp replacing the 6000 Series. New generation PowerTech 4.5 litres and 6.8 litres engines are fitted, together with electronic governing, depending on the choice of nine transmission variants. The familiar PowrQuad, or PowrQuad Plus versions with push-button shifting, are joined by AutoQuad which provides automatic gear changing according to load and engine rpm.

Prices start at £27,768 for 6110 80hp 2WD model, rising to a top of the range 6910 4WD, with 20/20 PowrQuad 40kph transmission, costing £53,543. A further £1,129 is needed for the PowrQuad Plus gearing, and another £1,728 for AutoQuad. Triple link front suspension costs an extra £2,807 on this model.

Increased demand for higher output tractors in the 121 to 140hp sector is cited by Renault for the introduction of the Ares 640 with an uprated turbocharger and injection pump to take output to 130hp,

Priced at £54,850, the 640 comes with Quadrispeed change-under-load transmission providing a total of 32 forward and 32 reverse speeds. Strengthened areas include the rear axle to cope with 8,740kg lift capacity, brake boosters and the uprated front axle from the Ares 700. Renaults touchpad controlled TCE 20 electronic linkage control provides automatic draft control and active wheelslip control.

Speed quest

The quest for speed combined with comfort is catered for by the addition of 50 kph, independent front suspension for four CS models from Case IH. The tractors in the 110 to 150hp range have a new front axle with independent wheel suspension. Ground clearance of the front axle can be adjusted by 15cm using hydro-electronics.

The new Doncaster-built CX range with six models between 50 to 100hp, was also previewed at the show. It will start to appear next March and will use Perkins-built engines and a modified gearbox with synchro shuttle. Standard eight forward, eight reverse gearboxes can be supplemented by creep speeds, or a two-speed Powershift option in 30kph or 40kph versions.

Further off for Case is the introduction of a continuously variable transmission which it has acquired with the purchase of Steyr. The prototype developed by Steyr on a 150hp tractor is capable of moving from a standing start to 50kph without any intervention by the operator.

The DLG gold medal awarded to this transmission was likewise awarded to other infinitely adjustable gear systems from Fendt for its Vario transmission in the Favorit 900 Vario series, Claas for the HM 8 power-split hydrostatic drive, and ZF with a hydrostatic and mechanical power-split transmission.

The systems have still to go through the full DLG field testing programme but other tractor manufacturers still lacking changeless transmissions are expected to be looking for deals with these pioneers if they are unable to develop their own alternatives.

JCB is one of those manufacturers whose range may soon look dated in the transmission department. It did not, however, stop Horsch showing a 65kph modification of the JCB 185 with a frame extension and steering back axle for fertiliser or spraying work. Chris Ellis, of Horsch, hopes to have one for UK demonstrations in the New Year with demountable sprayer or spreader units. The four-wheel steer allows adjustment from 1 to 30í, and the unit priced at Dm242,000 will crab steer.

He also believes contractors will show interest in the companys latest Terratrac T352 with 450hp Deutz engine and a Dm310,000 price tag in its home market. Hydrostatic drive has been moved out of the wheels into gearboxes in the back axles to give more power. Electronic control has also improved the anti-slip characteristics.

The East German factory of Landtechnik Schonebeck (LTS) provided many showgoers with a surprise. Fans of the once-popular Mercedes MB Trac have an updated replacement, coyly quoted at Dm1,000/hp. Trac 100, 130 and 160 range from 99 to 160hp engines. According to Andreas Stelzer, of LTS, the old MB Trac provided the model for a 95% revamp. Engines are from Mercedes, the gearboxes from ZF, and four-wheel steer is available.

LTS plan to build 500 of the tractors each year, and Mr Stelzer claims many of the old MB Trac faults have been eliminated. The new machines are designed for 50kph road speeds. Springs and shock absorbers are to the original design but the axles are now planetary axles made by LTS at its works in Schonebeck.

Other tractor newcomers included a compact implement carrier, the Unimog UX 100, with hydrostatic drive. German local authorities provide farmers with an extra income carrying out snow clearance and mowing duties for which the Unimog is said to be ideal as well as for farm work.

From the Japanese manufacturer Morooka came a new crawler range suitable for arable or forestry work. Prices start at Dm150,000 for a 117hp machine on rubber tracks. In a different price range to most of the European tractors, Belarus will launch 82hp and 90hp models in Germany next year, priced from Dm64,500.

The brightly-coloured, blue and yellow Arcus combine which featured in the DLG gold medal winners for its twin-rotor axial flow system, has a dual personality. It was also on the Case stand in the red paint which will be its future colours once Case has fully evaluated the model from its acquisition of the eastern German maker, MDW. Aside the from the axial flow system, the other main feature of the Arcus is its design road speed of 40kph using permanently driven, front-steered wheels with small diameter than the rears.

Deutz Fahr claim a lead in high capacity combines with the Topliner 8 XL fitted with conventional straw walkers capable of handling more than 40t/hr aided by 10.4 sq m of separating surface and 7.8 sq m of screening surface. Fitted with a 408hp engine, it can be used with 7.2m or 9m tables and is priced around £225,000. The company claims the secondhand value of such conventional machines is likely to be better than the axial flow equivalents.

Axial flow

Case also used the show to launch its updated axial flow machines. The 2300 series will be available in time for next harvest, in addition to the 2100. Conventional combines also get a boost with the launch of five new models sourced by Case from MDW.

With 140 to 270hp engines, the newcomers have 4 to 6 straw walkers. Top of the range is a 527 model with 8,300 litres grain tank, six straw walkers, 1,630mm wide concaves, and a multiple cylinder threshing system.

Bigger farms in eastern Germany and over the EU borders in Poland and the Ukraine mean that many German machinery makers concentrate on developing bigger machines for these markets. These include MA, based at Gustrow, which builds trailed and mounted equipment including 36m fertiliser spreaders for Damann, Unimog, Iveco or Renault 4WD chassis.

According to Heiko Tolzin, of MA, the spreaders will handle from 30kg to 15t/hr of urea through to chicken manure and lime at working speeds up to 20kph. Its twin-axle Gigant model has a 9t payload.

Amazone claims a working width of up to 48m, depending on the material, for its new ZA-M 4.2 four-disc spreader. The twin-level disc system fed by twin hoppers means two different materials can be broadcast at the same time. It also enables different rates of material to be applied more easily when controlled by GPS-based yield map software.

A sensor-controlled nitrogen (SCN) application system for the Amazone machines won a DLG gold medal for the development partners of Amazone, Massey Ferguson, Dronningborg and Hydro Agri. Although still essentially in prototype form, it will be used extensively in Germany next year on tractor/spreader combinations fitted with three optical sensors at the front to read crop nitrogen requirements.

Dr Jurgen Wohlring, of Hydro Agri, said the two sensors either side of the tramlines measure the chlorophyll content of the crop leaves by colour analysis, while the middle sensor is calibrated to provide a correction for variation in readings taken at different times of the day. The sensors cover 10 to 20% of the area covered by the spreader. Their readings are used in conjunction with a variable rate fertilising map previously drawn up using yield data.

The on-board software uses both the on-line readings and the mapping information to decide on the amount of fertiliser to be applied at any given point.

Hydro Agri has now carried out 33 different trials on fields from 5 to 50ha. Dr Wohlring says the variable rate fields have crops with more uniform development. Yield data is still being analysed but it is thought 1 to 4% extra yield can be obtained from variable rate application. However, every extra percentage point of yield translates into 5% more on profit.

Jos Marquering, of Amazone, the major benefit would not be from using less fertiliser but could be from more uniform proteins, or from being able to reduce nitrogen leaching in sensitive areas. Amazones control software on the spreader itself is now compatible with the Claas, MF or Muller systems, with even greater compatibility promised.

Horschs emphasis on big equipment continues but its latest FG stubble cultivator is designed to work the top 50 to 100mm at up to 16kph with a low power requirement of 25hp per metre width. A 5.7m set will cost about £10,000 in the UK. Other sizes available are the 7.5m and 11.7m machines, the latter being a five-section folder due next autumn. Each model folds to a transport width of 3m. and can be fitted with two 30cm extensions.

A number of Horsch 3m drills have been sold in the UK. The DS/D 6 double disc drill launched in Hanover will cost around £38,000-39,000. With a working width of 6m, it is capable of 75ha a day.

Dutzi is bringing in a range of Conserva Pak drills from the USA in 6 to 12m widths. Work rate is up to 180ha (445 acres) a day. Tume of Finland introduced the Agri Master HKK 6001 DD air drill; Amazone promoted its Airstar drill range from the small Progress version through to the 6m Express hydraulically-folding direct drill; and Rau also showed an Airsem pneumatic model available in 3m or 4m versions in combination with rotary harrows and tine rotors.

Rau also introduced three new trailed sprayers with tank volumes from 1,800-3,800 litres and boom width up to 36m in the aluminium boom version. The company also has a new self-propelled, air-assisted sprayer with fully hydrostatic drive. Powered by either a 155hp or 201hp Iveco engine, the machine has a working width of up to 28m.

Agritechnica in Hanover, Germany, is the worlds biggest event devoted to agricultural machinery. David Millar joined the180,000 visitors to see what was on offer.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

DUAL action mixes of new strobilurin chemistry with the best of the latest generation of triazoles topped French septoria trials in 1997.

The extensive series of treatments used by Frances leading agrochemical trials organisation, the ITCF, demonstrated that while the strobilurins were most likely to give yield increases from preventive early treatment, triazoles were a necessary part of successful later applications where a kickback effect was required.

Claude Maumené, who heads the ITCF fungicide programme, found that the strobilurins, like the latest generation of triazoles such as epoxiconazole, are dependent on full-rate applications to get the maximum effect. But even at half-rate a strobilurin/triazole combination will give more yield than a reduced rate triazole on its own.

Results from early treatment against septoria highlight the role of the strobilurins in preventing fungal development. Applied at second node, it was Ogam, the BASF formulation of kresoxim-methyl with epoxiconazole, which showed the greatest (71%) control of septoria and the best yield response of 1.22t/ha.

However, not far behind this full-rate treatment was a mixture of half-rate Amistar (azoxystrobin) with half-rate Opus (epoxiconazole), full-rate Vista CT (fluquinconazole + chlorothalonil), and three-quarter rate Opus with a litre of Daconil (chlorothalonil).

Treatment

Putting treatment off until flag leaf emergence produced different results which favoured the curative action of the triazoles. Ogam (73%) still excelled but was just pipped for control (74%) by a quarter-rate Amistar with threequarter-rate Opus. Yield response was exactly the same at 1.9t/ha.

For these later treatments, straight Opus and Tango Duo (epoxiconazole + tridemorph) moved up in the league table for control although there were still good yield responses to triazole-based mixtures containing some strobilurin. This may be explained, according to Mr Maumené, by the additional effect of the likes of Amistar on fusarium and ear diseases which were prevalent in 1997.

The yield results which show the better response from later applications are based on single applications of fungicides, and ITCF maintains that growers planning a single fungicide spray are still best advised to use it around flag leaf emergence.

In an ITCF mildew trial in the Champagne region, the new active ingredient quinoxyfen (Fortress) shows the greatest control (90%) closely followed by Ogam and a Fortress plus Opus tank mix.

ITCF has tried out a number of combinations of low rate quinoxyfen with low rate triazole with good results. Quinoxyfen, costing around £23/litre in France, is the first product from a new family of fungicides.

"It appears to be a preventive product with little curative effect," says Mr Maumené. This suggests use at the onset of infection and ITCF advise using it instead of a morpholine at the ear 1cm stage.

Alternatively, quinoxyfen at a reduced rate can be used later in a mixture with those triazoles already known to mildew.

Despite the good mildew control given by Ogam, ITCF points out that its French price of around £42/litre means it wont be an economic alternative against mildew alone. It is more likely to be justified where there is a strong risk of septoria, but the trials also had good results from a mixture of cyprodinil (Unix) with a triazole on crops attacked by eyespot, mildew and septoria.

Nor does Mr Maumené yet dismiss the value of using a morpholine on those wheat varieties less susceptible to mildew.

Brown rust trials by ITCF demonstrated the value of an early treatment as soon as first symptoms were seen. Waiting a further two weeks produced slightly poorer control. Products containing strobilurins performed well but the trials results suggest the triazole component played a major part in their success.

As expected, the eyespot trials were dominated by cyprodinil (Unix) in various combinations. The addition of a strobilurin component boosted control and yield responses in the three eyespot trials conducted by ITCF. Best results came from a combination of Unix with Amistar although azoxystrobin on its own is not approved for eyespot control in France. The combination preferred by ITCF – 0.8kg Unix plus 0.5 litre Amistar – yielded slightly less than a mix with 0.8 litre Amistar but was favoured for the lower cost of treatment.

The power of the strobilurins was, however, exhausted in ITCF fusarium trials which were dominated by tebuconazole and metconazole products. The main infection tackled was Fusarium culmorum, which was introduced artificially and is the main fusarium species found in France.

&#8226 The trials information and table results in this article first appeared in the French agronomy magazine Cultivar which featured the 1997 fungicide trials by the ITCF.

Continental growers are often first with new wheat

fungicides. David Millar reports on French trials.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

A NEW herbicide molecule completely stole the show at Brighton this year. It was given the thumbs up from the major agrochemical distributors.

Why were they excited? Because this chemistry promises to be a one-hit solution to blackgrass – even resistant strains. It will also control major broad-leaved weeds including cleavers.

Discovered by Monsanto scientists, the product (known only under its code name, JV 485) is a pre-emergence residual herbicide, applied as a liquid. Control of blackgrass is ahead of nearly all other current commercial alternatives including sequences with pre- and post-emergence products, according to company results.

Thanks to its novel mode of action, JV 485 knocks out all known resistant blackgrass types, including target-site resistance (fop and dim) and enhanced metabolism resistance (IPU), said Dr Steve Moss of IACR- Rothamsted.

"We havent found any sign of blackgrass resistance to this new chemistry in the UK." But Dr Moss advised caution; resistance could evolve over time, because JV 485 appears to rely on a single mode of action. A mix of strategies would help limit the risk.

One big advantage over current blackgrass products seems to be JV 485s consistency in difficult seasons. It works in wet or dry soil conditions, and in rough seedbeds. There are no restrictions on following crops. It is not for use in barley.

Cleaver control is a significant benefit, particularly at the higher dose rate. "A spring spray against cleavers would rarely be necessary following JV 485," suggested Ben Bolton of Bayer. Monsanto and Bayer are co-operating on the marketing of JV 485.

Growers could also expect good kill of volunteer rape, speedwell, pansy, shepherds purse, fools parsley, charlock, red deadnettle, forget-me-not, mayweed, poppy and geranium. Its an impressive list; the few species which might escape full control include volunteer beans and ivy-leaved speedwell.

With remaining grass weeds, JV 485 also has some activity against sterile brome and wild oats, but these may need a follow-up spray with another product to clear up serious problems; spring germinating wild oats tend to escape. Annual meadow grass and Italian ryegrass are controlled well.

One possible drawback to this new chemistry is that it would have to be used before any weed problems became apparent; some might argue that this prophylactic approach doesnt fit comfortably with integrated crop management and the theory of appropriate dose.

JV 485 is formulated as a 500g ai/litre suspension concentrate. Application rates are low – between 125g and 175g ai/ha.

Expected commercial launch is within two years, but this is dependent on the approval process. On price, the manufacturers are keeping mum – but it is unlikely to be a cheap product.

Monsanto and Bayer have created a new joint company – Twinagro. It is to be responsible for co-ordinating the manufacture, registration and marketing of JV 485.

Other new arrivals at Brighton include mixtures containing carfentrazone-ethyl, which is the broad-leaved herbicide partner, from FMC, within the new herbicide combination Lexus Class.

This highly active molecule gives low dose, fast kill solutions (20g ai/ha) to cleavers and weeds such as ivy-leaved speedwell as either autumn or spring treatments. Not available as a straight in the UK, growers should expect to see a wider range of carfentrazone-ethyl mixtures shortly, including an IPU combination (Affinity) and with a mix with mecoprop-p (Platform S).

BETWEEN 95% to100% control of blackgrass, rye grass, wild oats and annual meadowgrass is claimed for a new AgrEvo graminicide which the company hopes to launch in three to five years.

Field trials with the new product, for which no chemical details are being released yet, show it controls resistant blackgrass, and lab trials show it overcomes herbicide resistance in wild oats and rye grass. A post-emergence material, it will be useable in both autumn and spring. It also has some effect on bromes, rough meadowgrass, canary grass, loose silky bent, couch and onion couch.

Agrevo is also planning an enhanced version of its new cereals fungicide Vista (fluquinconazole) even before its original formulation is marketed next spring.

The fungicide is said to outlast even the strobilurins with its persistence in controlling septoria and the rusts. A new formulation should be ready for 1999 and the company plans further products based on the same molecule.

New formulations of Cheetah, Puma X and Tigress are also on the way from AgrEvo, as is a new sulfonylurea herbicide combined with a safener to allow its use on wheat principally against cleavers, mayweed, chickweed but with some control of pansy and speedwell. Of the revised formulations, only Tigress will have new dose rate recommendations of a maximum 1.5 litres/ha in autumn and 2 litres/ha in spring.

WEEDS tucked up under plastic with early potatoes, carrots or maize can be controlled with herbicide printed on to the protective plastic cover for slow dispersal.

The technique has been seen to work in trials at the Arthur Rickwood Research Centre by Sally Runham of ADAS. While the crop continues to thrive in the microclimate under the film, weeds are checked by herbicide in the plastic, costing between £500 and £1,200/ha (£200-£486/acre) according to herbicide.

In early carrots, nearly 3t/ha of extra yield was obtained under the film. Weed suppression was more prolonged when linuron was applied on the film rather than sprayed at commercial rates.

Early potato yields were similar for weed control by impregnated or sprayed linuron but metribuzin did not work so well on film. The technique did not work well with low rates but it could be possible to print herbicide only on part of the plastic film, said Ms Runham.

Results from trials with maize showed similar yields from plastic or atrazine sprays.

PESTICIDE taxes and blanket limits on national agrochemical usage are now being considered in Europe as ways of reducing agrochemical usage throughout the Community – once again.

But this time around it looks as though the Commission is deadly serious about the prospect. A policy document is to be put together by 1999.

"It is highly likely that new legislation, whatever form it might take, will be introduced for plant protection products in Europe," predicted Brian Sheridan, a legal consultant working for the Commission, based in Brussels. "We should expect it within three years."

The pesticide manufacturers are worried. They are fighting hard for an alternative to heavy-handed legislation: they would prefer voluntary strategies agreed between growers, consumers and suppliers.

The industrys argument is that new laws to restrict use, or to impose taxes on pesticides would distort trade, stifle innovation, be expensive to operate and would prevent growers from being competitive on world markets, according to Dr Pierre Urech of the industrys trade body, the European Crop Protection Association.

"We recognise our social and environmental responsibilities as an industry, and that these are essential to our survival. We support integrated crop management wholeheartedly," insisted Dr Urech. "

"However, we already operate under one of the most sophisticated regulatory systems in the world. Todays crop protection products are thoroughly researched and have an excellent safety record – the environment will be much better off in a properly regulated but free enterprise culture."

Some member states, for example Denmark, already operate national schemes to limit pesticide use. These are criticised for being clumsy strategies which put growers at a disadvantage, whilst not achieving significant environmental benefits.

Dr Utrech suggested that a better approach to pesticide reduction might be through a link with voluntary farm assurance schemes. The ECPA will soon be presenting its own alternative proposals to the Commission.

For its part, the UK government has already taken the initiative on national pesticide reduction, but it is using consensus and voluntary cooperation rather than new legislation. MAFF has created a new body – the Pesticides Forum – with a brief to encourage reduction in national pesticide use, and minimise any environmental impact.

All sectors of the industry are represented, from growers, distributors and sprayer manufacturers to consumers and public servants. The committee is focusing on voluntary strategies to achieve its aim, under the guidance of Ministry scientist Dr David Shannon.

Its first action plan was produced in August. A key part of the plan is to develop a means of measuring possible environmental risk from agrochemicals.

WHY use a herbicide – if you can persuade a plant to exude its own weed control through the roots instead? It sounds far fetched, but this is just what Philippine scientists are attempting to do with rice breeding.

Strains have been identified that have natural defence mechanisms, stimulated by the presence of certain weeds. These rice plants are able to suppress competing weeds by giving out chemicals through the roots. The hunt is now on to understand this process – called allelopathy – and discover whether this natural weed control could be bred into other cereal species; rice today, wheat tomorrow?

USING low rates of hormone-type herbicide may not kill weeds outright – but such applications could be just enough to knock weeds back, and reduce seed production, germination and weed viability into the next generation, said Gillian Champion of Reading University.

These side effects are not often taken into account when considering the effectiveness of herbicide treatment. But Ms Champions research shows how common speedwell can be affected by just one-quarter dose of fluroxypyr (Starane), reducing weed seed number, weight and size. "Weed seed quality measurements should be taken into account when considering herbicide effectiveness," suggested Ms Champion.

THE race is on to discover a rapid, farmer-friendly test for blackgrass resistance. But might the French beat us to it? Scientists at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), near Dijon, are looking at three options.

One method could give results in just 48 hours, and could be carried out in the field by growers at the end of winter, said Dr Jacques Gasquez of INRA.

This system uses tillers and does not require special techniques or equipment. The disadvantage is that it only checks against target-site resistance.

Two other tests, using pollen and seedlings, would be more applicable to laboratories, said Dr Gasquez. Checking pollen allows the identification of resistance to several herbicides, and seedling studies can distinguish different levels of resistance.

As yet, no quick tests for blackgrass resistance are available in the UK. Growers face a six week wait for results. However, a fast test is currently being developed by scientists at IACR-Rothamsted.

YIELD is not the only casualty of downy mildew and light leaf spot infections in oilseed rape. It now appears that these diseases can hit oil content – and so cut profits.

A preliminary survey by Dr Ken Davies of the Scottish Agricultural College has identified several such links between weeds, pests and disease and crop quality aspects. It puts an extra dimension on the dangers posed by certain crop problems.

For example, if your crop is left weedy until spring, then downy mildew and botrytis risk increases, said Dr Davies. "This effect has not been quantified before." But both diseases seems to reduce glucosinolate levels, which may be an advantage for anyone wanting to home-save seed.

Leaf miner damage in the autumn can raise glucosinolate levels, and these pests are encouraged by volunteer potatoes. Growers should therefore put a higher priority on eliminating these weeds, suggested Dr Davies.

This work is being done as the COIRE (Crop Optimisation by Integrated Risk Evaluation). "We are now evaluating which links are real, and which are spurious. We shall then be looking at environmental factors as well," he said. "Many interesting points are emerging – for example, the more annual meadow grass there is in a crop, the fewer slugs. We are trying to work out why – but it could be an advantage to keep annual meadow grass in a rape crop."

COMPENSATION should be made available to growers in return for limiting pesticide use in buffer zones, suggested Mr Terry Tooby, of the Pesticides Safety Directorate in York.

Otherwise growers will amalgamate fields – to reduce the buffer zone area – and also put pipework in to field ditches so that water is carried underground. "This is already happening," he said. "The commercial implications are serious for farmers with many small fields, and they are even now removing hedgerows and other wildlife corridors to lessen the impact. So a regulatory solution to protect one sector of the environment could backfire."

Currently 406 plant protection products require a 6m buffer-zone to be maintained from field water catchment areas. Although other EU member states use buffer zones, they are limited only to main river systems, and do not include small ditches. The government is currently considering proposals for regional risk assessment on buffer zones.

NINE cereal diseases can be detected with one multiscreen test from the Scottish-based Adgen Diagnostic Systems. At £69 for a single sample, the new laboratory test can unravel and identify the DNA from six fusarium species associated with foot rot or ear blight, from sharp eyespot, and both the W and R types of eyespot before any visible symptoms.

Adgen, from Auchencruive near Ayr, also has new potato virus diagnostic tests, including rapid on-site tests for potato viruses X and Y and for leaf roll virus. Cost of the 10-15 minute tests is £3.50 to £4.50 each with the kits which are sold in batches.

CHOICE of variety may have unwittingly been contributing to the volunteer oilseed rape load.

Rape seeds can persist in the soil for at least five years, and very likely for 10, said Carola Pekrun. That causes problems enough today for weed control in other broad-leaved crops.

But volunteers will take on greater significance in terms of contamination when the new types of rape with specific oil qualities – and there are between 10 and 20 in the pipeline – hit the market.

So work at IACR-Rothamsted is establishing the potential of existing spring and winter UK varieties, including those currently with high erucic acid, to develop secondary dormancy.

What it found was a big range between varieties, from 0.7% dormant seeds to almost 80%.

And the worst variety? Only the most popular variety for the past four years. Yes, Apex. While Dr Pekrun admitted that some variation between experiments casts some doubt on the reliability of her test procedure, theres no doubting Apexs prominence in each. "We can say it would be prone to build up quite a high seed bank," she said.

By repeating the experiments, its hoped an average response for all varieties can be given with more confidence.

This knowledge probably wouldnt affect growers variety choice at the moment, Dr Pekrun thought, but it may do in the future. She suggested that assessing dormancy might be beneficial for breeders screening new varieties.

CLASSIFYING spray quality into coarse, medium and fine, after 12 years, is set for an update. A second set of categories is being introduced by the BCPC to define the potential of a nozzle to produce driftable droplets.

This is important for growers following specific field margin management strategies. Driftability will be assessed in wind tunnels or other controlled situations, related to reference nozzles, then categorised using mathematical models in an international scheme developed by the Rotterdam Group – an informal group including specialists from R&D organisations and nozzle and sprayer manufacturers.

The proposed system needs about six months more work. One of the most pressing issues to be resolved is how to set spray quality categories for twin fluid and air inclusion nozzles, such as the Lechler air injector, Lurmarks Turbodrop or Billericay Farm Services Bubblejet.

While these have a dramatic effect on the performance of spray, their density and transport characteristics are quite different from conventional nozzles, so defining spray quality is proving quite difficult, explained Ted Southcombe, chairman of the BCPC Applications Committee.

ITS official – herbicide resistant blackgrass hits growers where it hurts. And the effect of reducing net margins is very sensitive to both crop yield and cereal price, warned ADAS David Harris.

A study commissioned by HRAC – the Herbicide Resistance Action Committee – reveals the true cost of controlling resistant blackgrass based on farmer experience at Peldon in Essex, the home of resistant blackgrass.

The calculations use 1997 harvest results and standard financial data for individual cultivations.

The extra costs of annual ploughing, a 7% yield loss associated with delaying drilling and two extra herbicide doses add £194/ha for a 10t/ha wheat crop sold for £100/t.

And the cost of resistance is even greater with grain prices where they are today.

If prices slide to £70/t on the back of Agenda 2000, its important to prevent resistance now, stressed Mr Harris. But the big unanswered question is the propensity of a given population to develop resistance to herbicides.

Scientists are excelling themselves in seeking solutions to your weed control problems, as the Crops team found at this years Brighton Crop Protection Conference.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

A difficult harvest has put the combine back on many buyers purchasing lists. Peter Hill reviews manufacturers developments.

Case – IH

A NEW range of conventional combines will join the familiar Case-IH Axial-Flow rotary models following the companys newly-announced deal with MDW, the former combine manufacturing arm of the east German Fortschritt concern.

The four-, five- and six-walker machines will bring new value contenders for combine sales. Meanwhile the Arcus twin rotor combine throws conventional design out of the window with weight-carrying wheels at the back and steering wheels at the front.

This not only gives it better steering characteristics, allowing a 40kph top speed, but also keeps overall width down to 3m.

Equally unusual is the location of the threshing/separation rotors where the grain elevator normally goes, an enormous two-tier sieve assembly and a cavernous grain tank. All of which gives the machine an appetite to match the biggest capacity harvesters already available.

The Arcus will be evaluated in the UK next year.

John Deere

WITH the CTS twin rotary combine still officially under UK evaluation – despite a number of grey import machines working away in this years harvest – John Deeres news focuses on a more sophisticated cutting table management and control system.

Contour Master provides fully automatic control of cutting height as well as lateral tilt so that operators can concentrate on steering and overall performance.

Using two pairs of ground contact strips to indicate ground contours, the table lift rams can keep things on an even keel and at the required cutting height.

The system is introduced on a 6m wide Contour Master table supplied as standard with John Deeres range-topping 2266 six walker combine which for this harvest (along with the 2264) gained a more capable hydrostatic ground drive to cope with more powerful Deere engines.

Deutz-Fahr

THE combines stay much the same but the organisation selling them is different with the newly constituted Same Deutz-Fahr taking over from importer Watveare earlier this year.

One result is a doubling of Deutz-Fahr parts stock held at the firms Warwickshire base (not all of it for combines, though), with the aim of ensuring better first-time parts availability. Another is the establishment of a buffer stock of harvester spares at Forfar dealer Gordon Phillips to provide a more local service for Deutz-Fahr users in Scotland.

The Italian-owned German manufacturing operation has already expanded the range with self-levelling Balance models of the five-walker 4065 and six-walker 4075 and 4080 machines. These are claimed to provide more scope for keeping threshing and sieving components on the level when working on sloping ground to maintain output without grain losses soaring.

Separate pivoting final drives on the front axle, adjusted automatically by hydraulic ram, keep the combine level on slopes up to 20% – more than other machines with similar systems, says Deutz-Fahr – in addition to coping with up/down working on slopes up to 6%.

The new flagship TopLiner 8XL aims to match the capcity of the biggest rotary combines with a conventional threshing and separation system.

It uses the same drum/beater/separaror assembly as the 4080 and 4090 models, but then a spreading drum distributes straw across eight straw walkers, arranged in two sets, which oscillate in opposition.

Massey Ferguson

THE most significant package of changes to the Massey Ferguson combine range came in time for this years harvest when the Fieldstar yield mapping and Datavision II combine monitoring systems were introduced, along with smart new cabs for the combines themselves.

This year, the value of MFs Power Flow draper-type table has been brought into focus again thanks to laid crops. A bigger version is now available to make the most of the MF38RS and MF40RS capacity potential.

At 7.6m (25ft), the latest version is a metre wider but only 3% heavier.

In addition to boosting output in cereals and direct cutting oilseed rape (where the rubber conveyors and forward knife position are a particular advantage), the extra width enables two 4.8m (16ft) rape swaths to be gathered in one go.

Other details? A new cab floor mat reduces noise levels and makes the compartment easier to clean out; and oil tank and cooling capacity have been increased, with more thorough filtration, on larger models.

Theres also a new straw chopper; only subtly different from the current one, with a bigger diameter rotor and a revised counter-knife position resulting in more of a guillotine action. It takes more power but should give more consistent chop length for better minimum tillage incorporation.

New Holland

A THOROUGH shake-up among the TX straw walker combines and a partner for the rotary separation TF78 Elektra mark New Hollands offerings for the 98 harvest.

A principle feature of the TX67 is its 3.3m overall width – 65cm less than the TX66 on which it is based. That could make all the difference in slim lanes.

Elsewhere in the range, the emphasis is on extra power for more output. The TX68, for example, gets another 30hp to create the TX68 Plus which heads the range with a 310hp New Holland Powerstar engine. The 205hp TX63 slots in as an additional model towards the bottom of this line-up.

Extra cutting width from a 9.15m table takes advantage of the TX68/TX68 Plus capacity potential with a revised slip clutch on all sizes transmitting higher torque but still providing effective overload protection.

Introduction of the TF76 Elektra means New Holland has more than one rotary separation combine again.

Though smaller, it mirrors the TF78 Elektra build, using conventional main and secondary threshing cylinders but replacing straw walkers with a large diameter centrifugal drum for final separation.

Power is 255hp (330hp on the TF78) and grain tank capacity 8,000 litres (9,500 litres on the TF78). Threshing cylinders are the same width in both models but of smaller diameter in the newcomer.

Standard equipment includes a 7.3m cutting table and a cleaning shoe which remains level across slopes of to 17% so that output can be maintained without rocketing grain losses.

Claas

AN ADDITION to the Lexion range and a novel table that does away with oilseed rape extensions is the principle news from Claas.

The Lexion 440 slots into the bottom end of the big capacity six-straw walker combine line-up, with less power and simpler specification than 450 above it.

The folding chaff spreader is optional. The grain tank holds a little less, and tank covers are opened manually rather than by electric motor. A 6m Autocontour cutting table is standard and the Perkins engine delivers 250hp.

The Vario cutting table has hydraulic adjustment of the knife-to-auger spacing. The knife can be drawn back up to 100mm to cope with very short crops or moved forward 200mm to deal with laid crops.

Or it can then be moved to a position 500mm forward of standard with blanking plates filling-in the gap – for oilseed rape. Conversion time is between 15 and 20 minutes.

Autocontour float, pre-set cutting height and lateral float are standard features; the 7.5m version costs $5,500 when specified in place of the standard table, compared with the bolt-on rape extension, complete with vertical knife, at £2,200.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997


Water is the key to quality root and vegetable crops – and climate change will put irrigation supply under threat. Four years ago John Chapple of CWS Agriculture took the plunge and started to build three reservoirs at Goole Estate, Humberside. The cost was £159,000, providing 21m gallons capacity. "It was money well spent – the payback period on capital invested was just two to three years, less than half the original prediction. Our only regret is that we didnt take changing weather into account. With the benefit of hindsight, I believe we should have built twice as much reservoir capacity."

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

It is time to invest in cultivation kit again, says a leading financial advisor. Heres why.

THE traditional reaction to falling prices is to cut spending, but many arable producers could benefit from maintaining their existing investment plans, says Gary Markham, Head of Agriculture at Grant Thornton.

He feels that too many growers have such significant scope to improve technical performance – particularly in relation to machinery usage – that judicious investment in the right equipment should not be delayed because of a temporary cash shortage.

"Many farmers feel cash-strapped now; tax payments on accounts based on the relatively profitable years of 1995 and 1996 are imminent; IACS payments may still be in the post and many have yet to sell 1997s harvest.

"Just to rub it in, they are receiving low prices for 1997 crops which were grown with high priced inputs," says Mr Markham. But he does see brighter long-term prospects.

"1997/8 should be better. Chemical manufacturers are already suggesting price cuts of 20 to 30% so input bills will fall and crop prices may rise moderately."

He urges farmers to take a more considered view and help ensure their businesss long term future by making judicious investment. This means refocussing attention on controlling costs.

"When crop prices are good there is a strong correlation between yield and profit. Farmers can justify using systems which guarantee yield, even if they are a little bit more expensive than the alternatives.

"As prices fall or become more volatile, that correlation weakens, and the link between cost and profit becomes stronger. In this scenario, judicious investment in machinery which can reduce costs and/or save time will prove its value."

Initial instinct

Obeying the initial instinct to completely stop spending is wrong for all but a few. "In the short term, if you are well kitted-up you may be able to do it. But if you have ageing machinery you will be saddling the business with higher production costs, because bills for maintenance and spare parts will rise. Timeliness may also be lost as a result of breakdowns."

Far better, he suggests, is a thorough examination of current machinery and labour use, because the gap between the best and worst is huge. Figures from Grant Thorntons annual survey of farmers working 28,000ha (70,000 acres) of combinable crops in the Eastern Region reinforce this point.

"For the 1996 harvest year, the top 25% spent a third of their gross margin on machinery and labour, whereas the average spent 44%, and the bottom 25% spent nearly 75%. There were huge differences in the efficiency with which they utilised their investments."

"The top 25% of farmers made a gross margin of £370/acre, with £116 of their £160/acre costs being for machinery and labour. Their management profit was £210/acre. Average farmers made £324/acre gross profit, with £144 of their £209/acre fixed costs being machinery and labour. Their management profit was £115/acre.

"The bottom 25% made gross margins of £246/acre, which would have represented a small profit if their costs were the same as average producers. But machinery and labour consumed £181/acre, with their total costs of £277/acre, resulting in a management loss of £31/acre."

While arable farmers have tended to replace tractors and combines during the sectors profitable years, Mr Markham suggests their investment focus should now switch to cultivation equipment, drills and crop establishment systems which can help reduce costs.

"Assuming the agronomy is in order, return on investment in this kind of machinery can be huge, particularly if they invest in machines with a proven long working life. While they still represent capital expenditure the equipment can have a cashflow advantage because annual bills for maintenance and spares may be reduced.

"In addition, manufacturers are currently offering very keen prices and finance schemes and terms are about as attractive as they are ever likely to be.

"More importantly, these machines can help make efficiency improvements, like making better use of recently bought high-horsepower tractors. This can lead to more timely cultivations, or enable work or land to be taken on, should the opportunity arise, thus spreading fixed costs over a larger acreage."

There are huge variations in the time taken to prepare seedbeds, and particularly between plough and minimal cultivation based systems. "If we apply the figures laid out below to a 280ha (700acre) arable operation, even the two-discing option saves 40 minutes/ha, which equates to 186 hours (3 weeks work @ 62 hr/week)."

"The exact figures will vary from farm to farm according to a host of localised factors, but these calculations give some idea of the scope for improvement which many farmers may be able to make." But he warns that minimal cultivations will not suit everyone, even if the figures seem attractive.

Savings

"The savings depend heavily on factors like location and soil conditions. Minimal cultivations work best on finely chopped straw, which maximises weed germination. They can cut labour and machinery costs while conserving seed-bed moisture, and achieve timeliness during peak seasons, which is important to achieving full yield potential."

As a footnote, he says the tax advantages of the current increased Capital Allowances should only be a secondary consideration. "At a 23% tax rate (on a partnership or sole trader) the current allowances are effectively worth an additional £5.75 per £100 invested in the first year."

However, much of this is clawed back in subsequent years, so that the average extra tax saving over four years is £2.44 per £100 invested.

"Concentrate on driving a hard bargain. "Dealers will be very appreciative of your business just at the moment, and will be prepared to offer some attractive packages."

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Crops New Year resolution

WARMEST, wettest, windiest – you name it, the weather this season has made the headlines somewhere in the UK. The Met Office statisticians have struggled to keep up. Theres a new record broken during every weather forecast.

Whats 1998 going to bring? Heres the Crops prediction: whatever the pundits say now, no-one will get it right. 1998 will be the year of the unexpected. Everything in farming is now uncertain. The weather, the markets, and the politics. Wise growers will do all they can to prepare for the worst – but without giving up hope on the best. And thats the package within this New Years issue.

First we hope to raise a few smiles this year with the introduction of spoof diarist Justin McDonald (above) – hes brash, broke and born to farm (p30).

As ever, we cover the latest agronomy advice. Warnings are already being given about early disease, lush growth, and unravelling the causes of lodging (see p8). See our Fertiliser Special (p23) for in-depth answers as to what you should be doing this spring.

We cover politics. Is there life after free trade? Certainly, Canadian growers are more than alive and kicking following the dismantling of their subsidised agriculture. The UK should take note (p21)

And we cover marketing. Taking out insurance is a well-recognised way of avoiding risk in day-to-day life. Why not use insurance – otherwise known as options – to smooth out volatile grain markets? (p12)

Our New Years resolution at Crops is to continue to give you the best information that there is, neatly wrapped up in one magazine. What better way to help you tackle whatever lies in store in 1998?

Lessons to learn?

SO YOU thought the new fungicides might make life easier? A one spray answer to cereal disease? Sadly, this doesnt look as if its the case.

The French are usually the first to road test new agchems, and fungicides are no exception. Trial results there show that the strobilurins and other new chemistry work best in complicated mixtures. (p.6). So no simple answers here.

The data presses home the message that growers desperately need more information on how to make the most of the new chemistry when it arrives on farms this spring. Instead, UK growers are working in the dark.

In France, the independent ITCF performs early trials on behalf of growers. And it then disseminates the results fast. Why cant UK growers benefit from a similar system?

The HGCA has the role of commissioning R&D, using growers levy cash to fund trials. There was a time when the HGCA wasnt keen to pay for "near market" research – preferring that growers go to fee-charging organisations such as the ARC or ADAS for the detail on product use.

Thankfully, new thinking at the HGCA is more in tune with growers needs. The lions share of levy cash goes to projects crucial at farm gate level – the UK Recommended List and now a practical assessment of precision farming.

Is it now time for the HGCA to evaluate the new chemistry? It clearly fits the practical direction it is taking. And these products are so different that there will still be plenty of scope for others to make their cut from added-value advice on fine-tuning rates, mixtures and timings.

However, whats desperately needed is basic information. This wouldnt spoil the game for advice providers, but it would mean growers had some early guidelines on the new products.

The UK is a year or so behind France in terms of commercialisation of agchems. And we still lag far behind on freely-available information. With technology racing ahead, the HGCA has an even greater responsibility to give growers more practical, and, above all, truly independent advice.

Challenging days ahead

LETS admit it. Theres nothing more guiltily satisfying than watching the experts scratch their heads. Thats why we couldnt resist the Crops Challenge.

Our two teams battle it out on a Cambridgeshire field; its the practical experience of the independent agronomists, pitted against the scientific expertise of an agrochemical manufacturer.

Their brief – to make the most out of the least. Which team can produce the best wheat gross margin without spending the earth? With markets falling and input prices rising, this is the ideal time to put them to the test.

We promise to spare none of the details of their angst and their agony through the season. Seeing the experts themselves bravely struggle with the task you face every year, may go a little way to taking your mind off the size of the bills this spring (p16).

Unpalatable facts on sewage sludge

ADOPTING environmental ideals is often more difficult than it may seem. Thats because whats laudably green to one sector of the industry can signal red for danger when seen from another viewpoint.

Using sewage sludge as a fertiliser seems to be an answer to the pollution problem in the seas around the UK. And we need an answer, fast. EU legislation will ban dumping waste at sea by the end of 1998.

What could be more green than recycling the nutrients in our waste, and saving on bag fertiliser? Wouldnt this be in line with the much-paraded environmental credentials of our major retailers?

But now its come to the point, the supermarkets are not in favour. They are not convinced that shoppers would be keen to buy food – particularly unprocessed fruit and vegetables – after treatment with human sewage. No matter all the science that has gone into transforming waste into an unrecognisable and safe form of fertiliser.

Sewage is sewage – and in the publics eye, that means germs, e-coli, and hazards to health.

So within the supermarkets own quality assurance schemes, sewage sludge is likely to be ruled out. This puts a question mark over its acceptability within the new Assured Combinable Crops Scheme.

Given the power of the supermarkets, the widespread use of sewage sludge as fertiliser looks unlikely.

Its bad news for anyone keen to see the UK clean up its act on sea pollution. But for green seas, the public needs to accept the fact that human sewage can be a useful, and safe, fertiliser. Is that really so unpalatable?

Brown rot in the river?

ONLY the most hard-hearted UK potato growers could fail to have sympathy for their Dutch counterparts. Three years on from first finding brown rot in Holland, this disease continues to cause problems for Dutch seed producers.

Much like unwelcome in-laws at Christmas, brown rot lingers on – and on. Once its found a home in a region, it will live happily within native weeds in water courses. Then as soon as water is taken for potato irrigation, bingo. Brown rot spreads rapidly, ruining tuber quality and wiping out seed export prospects.

The warning bells are now sounding in the UK. Infected bittersweet, a weed found along river banks, has been picked up bordering the River Ouse. The mystery of how brown rot arrived in the first instance will, no doubt, never be satisfactorily resolved – but the finger of suspicion points at potato processing plants.

For UK potato producers, the important point is that it is here, and it may contaminate irrigation water. The authorities insist that they have cleaned up the river in question – how can we be sure this is the case? And how many other river banks may be harbouring infected flora?

A new European directive on brown rot control is expected this year, which will encompass irrigation. But it is already way overdue, delayed by arguments on testing protocol. Meanwhile, UK policy is in limbo.

We cant afford to wait until it is too late. The industry needs a plan of action, now. River irrigation is critical to the quality of many UK crops – the prospect of sprinkling contaminated water on to good potato land this summer is one too dangerous to contemplate.

Hybrids -here at last?

PUT yourself into the shoes of a plant breeder. Whats the best way to protect profits being eroded by farm-saved seed? Answer: sell something that no-one can grow on for a second year.

Thats why hybrids are the seed companies Holy Grail. But to persuade canny growers to buy expensive seed that can be used only once is not easy. Hybrids need to offer something extra in return.

With rape, the breeders can make that promise. Hybrid yields are high enough to give varieties a marketing edge. Not so with cereals; hybrid wheats have never lived up to the hype.

The breeders have tried hard. But as fast as they have come up with a wheat hybrid, new high yielding conventional varieties have overtaken potential hybrid yield advantages.

But now some seed companies reckon wheat hybrids are really on the horizon. The key to commercial success lies in a breadmaking premium, 7% higher yield, cheaper seed production methods (and so cheaper hybrid seed) and more consistent quality.

So the breeders argue. But after failing to live up to the hype for so many seasons, hybrid wheats have a serious image problem. Can growers be persuaded to change their minds? A new breadmaking hybrid variety will arrive in the UK soon. On your behalf, well be keeping an independent eye on it.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

THANK YOU!

YOUVE voted Crops tops. In the industrys annual survey, Agridata, Crops is again rated the best magazine for helping large-scale arable farmers run their businesses.

Our coverage on agronomy, crop protection and fertiliser is clearly hitting the spot. And our lead, compared with our nearest rival, is increasing year on year. Thanks for your wholehearted response.

In return, you can rely on us to provide you with the very best coverage on all matters arable – from politics to pesticides, machinery to markets, seeds to store and much more.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Growers may not have gained much Government reassurance at the Crops Conference in Cambridgeshire but speakers from the industry were resoundingly positive.

FEARS for the financial future of the arable sector in the face of a strong pound and low cereal prices were sidestepped by Lord Donoughue, the Minister for Farming and the Food Industry.

Before Lord Donoughue delivered his keynote speech in St Ives, conference chairman Tony Pexton highlighted falling farm incomes this year, the threat to exports from the UKs strengthening currency, and worries about the Governments changing priorities for food and agriculture.

However, the Minister was not deflected from his speech on Government attitudes to CAP reform, the environment and research.

He did pledge support for cereals exports into developing markets in China, Brazil, North Africa and Saudi Arabia. But, in response to a question from Norfolk farmer Anthony Gurney, he declared there was nothing to be done immediately about the strength of sterling which he judged to be no bad thing. "In time, the currency will adjust," he suggested.

Lord Donoughue also reminded growers that protests of the type which had seen Irish beef dumped in the sea would not serve them well. Agriculture represented just 1.8% of the population and would do better to link with the food industry as a whole to take advantage of its strength as 10% of the UK economy.

His vision for a modern, efficient European agricultural policy induced a gradual reduction in aids which had to be fully decoupled from production. "There is no justification for permanent compensation in respect of a one-off cut," he added. "Obligatory set-aside should be abolished – production constraints are not relevant in a free market."

Growers were further reminded of the Governments commitment to sustainable development. "For farming this means ensuring the right balance is struck between the need to produce sufficient high amounts of food at a competitive price and the need to protect the environment."

GRAIN MARKETING

IN a grain market that can readily lose £30/t, a premium of £3 to buy insurance in the form of a futures option is a worthwhile cost, argued Jon Duffy of grain traders and shippers Gleadell Banks.

The option premium will vary according to the volatility of the market and how far ahead the grower wants an option to purchase. Mr Duffy reminded growers it was their responsibility to decide when it was worth exercising the option and locking in at a higher guaranteed price in a rising market.

He classed the majority of cereal growers as either "artists" or "scientists" when it came to selling grain. Artists relied on gut feel and instinct and often had to struggle for a living, while scientists studied information carefully before acting and usually had a comfortable life.

Too many growers followed the artistic approach last year and let prices fall away from them. But those who read the market scientifically saw a record UK crop and sterling on the rise. These growers started selling early and kept on selling.

An alternative approach favoured by Mr Duffy was the merchant-administered grain pool, but only when growers had sufficient confidence in their merchant. "It cant be wrong to give a proportion of your crop to the trade, but make sure that trust is there," he said.

Whichever method of grain marketing was chosen, the grower should make sure that whoever takes on the role is "hungry".

"Somebody who has only committed grain to sell might not fight as hard as someone who is also trying to trade."

As well as protecting their market by hedging or options, he urged growers to spread their bets by growing a range of varieties – provided they were kept separately.

ASSURED CROPS

TO BE in the game, you have to abide by the rules. Thats how cereal producer Richard Beldam sees the Assured Combinable Crops (ACC) scheme.

Financially, there may be no advantage to membership but it could prevent crops in the future from being subject to discount or a no-sale, he told the conference.

Presenting ACC as a brand image would, he suggested, gain the confidence of consumers and make it less attractive for supermarket or other major buyers to switch abroad whenever there was a price advantage for non-assured supplies of cereals.

"Dont regard ACC as a problem but as an opportunity and a challenge," he urged. A challenge, moreover, that may well already be met on many farms complying properly with current requirements for record keeping, hygiene and pesticide safety.

However, ACC could operate only with independent external verification; a voluntary scheme of checking would quickly fall into disrepute.

Mr Beldam agreed growers would have to take a more disciplined approach, particularly to record keeping which would be essential for demonstrating action taken and provide an authoritative background to the reasons for that action. "A farm diary will be more than adequate provided it contains the right information."

However, field information might include label numbers, seed cleaning and treatment data, application records for fertiliser and pesticides, and soil nutrient status.

Storage will be particularly important. Recording must take into account cleaning and hygiene, weekly condition reports, load origins by field, and storage applications. All equipment should be maintained and calibrated properly, and staff hold any appropriate certificates.

MAFF codes on soil, water and air should be followed, and ACC members will have to demonstrate they have considered the environmental impact of their farming activities. Mr Beldam suggested many growers already practise their own versions of integrated farming which could help maintain ACC status.

In most cases involving professional growers, the ACC requirements would be met because most of them were already legal necessity. He felt most growers with modern stores would require only to replace inexpensive items such as light fittings or improve their vermin control.

SETTING TARGETS

ANOTHER £10/t off wheat production costs? David Stormonth of Brown Butlin thinks £55/t could be a target for most of the industry.

"If todays standard is around £65/t, then it should be reasonable for growers to aim for and easily achieve £60/t as a start," he said.

Variable costs (seed, fertiliser and chemicals) have stayed fairly constant at £30/t. Operational costs (cultivations, drilling, spraying, spreading and harvesting) come to about £35/t at present.

Growers had to be sure that any reduction in inputs did not reduce yield as well as costs. Careful consideration of seed inputs might be worthwhile for some but potential savings are small. A 10% saving in seed costs could increase the gross margin by just 0.7%.

Likewise, saving 10% on fertilisers was worth just 1.4% on the gross margin, assuming no yield reduction. And just 1.8% is added to the gross margin by trimming 10% off crop protection costs.

"Overall, the gains from cost saving with the inputs that actually make and protect crops are small and could put the process that creates yield at risk," said Dr Stormonth.

BEATING AGENDA 2000

NEW technology and price movement will be the bulwark for oilseeds production which is threatened with a major support reduction under Agenda 2000 proposals.

If accepted as it stands, Agenda 2000 will knock between £185/ha and £249/ha off area payments in 2000 (see table). Oilseeds specialist Kerr Walker highlighted how growers could overcome this assault on their profitability.

Price would be determined by the world market which he pointed out was elastic in its demand for oilseed and oilseed products. Admittedly, any major contraction in EU production would likely have a fairly strong price effect on the world price. Any increase would have to be considerable to balance out the loss in area aid.

For growers, however, the maintenance of a competitive position for oilseed rape in the rotation might be determined more by progress with hybrids and genetically-modified varieties.

Hybrids offer a higher yield potential than conventional types, said Dr Walker. Commercially, varietal association hybrids such as Synergy and the spring rapes Concept and Triolo appeared to perform well. Self-pollinating restored hybrids, however, offered the same benefits of increased vigour and yield without concerns of uncertain pollination.

These included the winter types Pronto and Artus and the new Hyola spring rapes and Superol. At current prices, growing hybrids made clear economic sense to Dr Walker.

"With hybrid seed, albeit at a low seed rate, costing £59/ha and conventional seed costing £39/ha, then the additional cost would be met by a 4% increase in yield (assuming an average winter crop of 3.5t/ha sold at £150/t)," he said.

Official approval is still awaited for GMO varieties but he suggested there were clear attractions in adopting herbicide-tolerant varieties which did not show phytotoxic reactions, even to multiple doses of herbicides. Flexibility in application timing may be useful to growers who might otherwise have to apply other herbicides at busy times or only when the crop was at certain critical stages.

Potential drawbacks in herbicide-resistant volunteers or cross-pollination with weeds so far appear to have only slight risk. Of greater concern was the public perception of genetic modification and possible consumer resistance to oilseed products.

Growers would also need to consider their strategic approach to herbicide-tolerant crops of more than one type. Where oilseed rape or sugar beet with a tolerance were to be used in the rotation, they could choose to use the same herbicide resistance for both crops or choose one tolerance for one crop and another for the second crop.

As yet, there was insufficient evidence to suggest which approach was the more attractive to the grower, said Dr Walker.

FRENCH LESSONS

CONDITION stable but could do better – much better, suggested Jonathan Hough, French-based farmer and consultant.

The patient? French agriculture which has been painfully adjusting to the MacSharry reforms of 1992 without the benefit of a strong green currency to shield the worst effects.

Coupled with the bureaucracy and complexities of French law, farming in France is far from simple, but even Mr Hough had to concede the professional farmers had survived for some years at the £80/t barrier and would still be in business for some time to come.

While it is difficult to adapt cropping to suit lower grain prices, he admitted that French growers had several strings to their wheat bow which were not available to British growers. South of Paris it is possible to grow high quality grain such as a durum or improving wheat – high protein and high Hagberg hard types for mixing into grists.

Durum wheat is fetching around £130/t (FF1,300/t) this year for yields of 4t to 6t/ha (1.6-2.5t/acre). A small niche market at £120/t exists for improving wheats which yield 5t to 7t/ha (1.6-2.8t/acre).

Mr Hough said there were never enough processing contracts to go round for potatoes which do not really form part of the daily French diet. A change in buying habits has also stimulated a decline in vining crops, such as peas and beans for canning and freezing.

Oilseed rape gross margin in his area south west of Paris comes to about £645/ha (FF6,454/ha) but it can be difficult to cover costs on industrial rape grown on set-aside where the gross margin is nearer £380/ha ((FF3,824/ha).

Over the past five years, Mr Hough estimated farm income, after rent and finance, had improved to FF964/ha (£96/ha) from FF807/ha in 1992. Rent for a 100 to 180ha farm growing combinable crops, sugar beet and some vining crops stayed at FF950/ha but French growers have reduced their finance charges substantially.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Fond memories of summer 97: sharp-eyed readers will spot unusual "crop growth" just behind Northants grower Ray Dalton (left) and Tim Hirst of BDR Agriculture, snapped during a pre-harvest inspection at Rockingham Castle Farms. Well swap two bottles of the best champagne in return for the caption that makes the editorial team laugh the most. Either post your suggestions to the Editor at Crops, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS, fax us on 0181 652 8928, or send an email to crops@rbi.co.uk

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

GROWERS want a shorter, sharper and more focused oilseed rape recommended list, says NIABs Simon Kightley. The 1998 version reflects this. Six varieties fall off; only two new names appear – and these are conventional types, not hybrids.

Its farewell to Cobra, Bristol and Inca, which were in the outclassed section. Jazz, Arietta and Lizard fail to be promoted from provisional recommendation, and vanish altogether.

New entrants are Madrigal (Novartis Seeds) and Boston (Nickerson Seeds) – both given provisionally recommended status for the whole of the UK. High treated yield won the day for Madrigal. It comes in with a score of 106 – just three points behind composite hybrid Synergy.

Madrigal is weaker-stemmed at maturity, and so forms a matted canopy, which could reduce shedding losses, comments Mr Kightley. It has excellent all-round disease resistance.

With the highest oil content on the new list, the potential financial return from Boston is attractive, and could match Madrigal – despite a lower yield score. Disease resistance is good, though light leaf spot is not quite up to that of Madrigal.

Boston is shorter and stiffer than Madrigal. Both varieties are earlier than Apex.

Regional verdicts are taken into account in the new list. Still in their two-year provisional slot, Lightning and Meteor are moved sideways into a central and southern recommendation.

Reflecting its commercial appeal in England and Wales, Apex is relegated to regional recommendation. Promoted from provisional regional recommendation, Capitol joins Apex. Scottish growers prefer earlier maturity; Gazelle and Commanche are now fully recommended for the north. That leaves Alpine, newly promoted to full general recommendation, as the only variety recommended for the whole UK.

Although new composite hybrids were tested, no new ones appear on the list. Synergy, and the fully restored types Artus and Pronto retain their yield lead, says Mr Kightley.

However, Synergy is not promoted to full recommendation, despite two years with a provisional recommendation. "We are still concerned about the reliability of pollination," he says. "Its possible that in trials the presence of other varieties may have been boosting yield."

This season composite hybrids will be trialled separately in recommended list trials, which will improve information, he suggests. Commercial, low seed rates will be adopted.

NO LONGER will spring rape growers have to wade through a long- winded descriptive list. For 1998, there is a new UK recommended list.

Now that they have to undergo judgement by NIAB Council, some varieties disappear. The survivors include mainstream commercial spring rapes, and they are joined by high yielding new entrant Canyon from Dalgety Agriculture.

But the excitement is in the spring hybrid section. Three Canadian restored spring hybrids – all Hyola numbered types from Advanta Seeds – appear. They offer high yields, hybrid vigour and rapid growth – critical factors for spring rape. One variety, Hyola 38, is exceptionally early, which should attract Scottish growers.

One new varietal association hybrid – Concept from Cargill – is also high yielding and early.

"The top hybrids offer an advantage of about £30/ha for returns over the best conventional varieties," says NIABs Mr Kightley.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Winning a place on the UK Recommended Lists is the industrys seal of approval on new varieties. Gilly Johnson finds out which ones make the grade for 1998.

SO LONG, Brigadier. Despite the large acreage drilled this autumn, the threat of yellow rust has relegated this feed wheat to the back benches; the outclassed section of the new UK recommended list.

But Savannah steps in to fill the gap; a new variety from the same breeding stable (Zeneca Seeds, now known as Advanta Seeds). Those growers who will shed a tear at the demotion of Brigadier may be consoled by the barn-filling credentials of this hard feed replacement. Savannah makes its debut, provisionally recommended, with a top treated yield rating of 106 – a good two points ahead of the its nearest rivals.

This year Savannah is the only wheat to satisfy the NIAB Council which decides on those varieties to be recommended. As well as impressive yields, it boasts stiff straw, good grain characters and reasonable disease resistance.

The critical issue for Brigadier remains its yellow rust susceptibility, which is now rated 1 – too low to pass muster with NIAB. Savannah offers greater peace of mind with a score of 5. But it wont be a low input variety. With septoria tritici resistance rated 4, disease control will certainly be necessary.

Feed wheat Reaper achieves promotion to full recommendation after two years in the provisionally recommended group. However, Group 2 milling variety Caxton doesnt follow it into full recommendation – it moves straight to the outclassed section.

"Compared with the fully recommended Group 2 benchmark, Rialto, Caxtons yields dont stand up," says NIABs John Ramsbottom.

Cadenza joins Caxton as outclassed. Dynamo, Encore, Hunter and the millers old favourite Mercia fall off the list completely. Feed wheat Beaufort is granted a stay of execution and remains in the outclassed section, following good yields last year.

A good performance in a difficult season from soft wheat Madrigal earns it a national, rather than regional, provisional recommendation. Straw strength rating goes up one point to 8.

It had initially been considered a wheat more suited to the north. But southern growers can now be more confident that Madrigal will suit their region as well.

Candidate wheats

Three candidate wheats dont make the grade. Feed variety Blaze (PBI Cambridge) is dropped due to yellow rust susceptibility. Potential bread wheat Chaucer (Elsoms Seeds) is not considered as good as, or better than, the milling varieties currently on the list. The breeder is appealing against this decision.

Hard milling Maverick (Advanta Seeds) is not recommended – despite attracting premiums under buy-back contracts from the Allied group, as being suitable for certain specialist milling processes.

It is considered that its yellow rust susceptibility (now rated 3) is not outweighed by sufficient positive characters to warrant a place on the list. Standing power is moderate to good.

A decision on potential Class 2 breadmaker Cantata (PBI Cambridge) is deferred for more information on quality.

With lodging, a wet harvest and disease pushing varieties hard this year, many scores have changed. And much needed data on sprouting has been gathered.

Points to note include Chargers provisional rating of 2 for sprouting, and a drop of one point on standing power rating to 5. Yellow rust ratings have also been adjusted. Reaper goes up from 3 to 4. Equinox and Madrigal also rate a 4.

For Scottish growers, the recommended list produced by the Scottish Agricultural College includes Savannah as a new entrant, but this variety is considered unlikely to be suited to the important distilling market. Other recommended wheats are Riband, Consort, Madrigal, Rialto and Abbot. Rigorous pruning of the Scottish list has removed Brigadier, Hussar, Charger, Equinox, Reaper, Encore, Mercia and Hunter.

List series

Back with the UK list series. On the spring wheat section, no new names are added. Decisions on both the candidate varieties – Paragon (PBI Cambridge) and Samoa (CPB Twyford) – are deferred. More information on breadmaking quality is being gathered on Paragon. Despite strong end-user support for Samoa, some indications of sprouting and low hagberg indicate further data is required, says Mr Ramsbottom.

Fury (Nickerson Seeds) was reconsidered after being deferred last year. The NIAB Council is not recommending this variety, mainly because of a luke-warm verdict from certain end-users. Promessa leaves the spring list, and Baldus and Avans are demoted to the outclassed section.

EXPORT demand is giving a boost to the UK feed barley sector. And the newcomers on the 1998 list have all the right credentials to satisfy the feed market – high yields, and good grain characters.

Given that malting varieties have stolen the limelight on the winter barley list in recent years, these new barleys revive the attractions of the feed sector, says NIABs Richard Fenwick.

Vertige (marketed by CPB Twyford; bred in France by Serasem) is a feed barley with the winning combination of super stiff straw and high yield potential. It comes onto the list with a treated yield rating of 104, just one point below Regina and the six-row variety Manitou. On yield, this performance makes it the new front runner of all the two-row feed barleys. With good earliness, it is provisionally recommended for all the UK.

Jewel (Nickerson Seeds) scores a special provisional recommendation, due to barley yellow mosaic virus (BaYMV) resistance. It outperforms the other two-row resistant varieties, Gleam and Epic, by two points. Treated yield is 102, on par with Hanna.

BaYMV resistance is complemented by outstanding all round disease resistance, including an 8 for rhynchospororium. Earliness is similar to Vertige, and Jewel also boasts bold grain of good specific weight.

"Im sure that many growers now have BaYMV in their land, but dont realise it," says Mr Fenwick. "They may see yellow patches in the spring and put on nitrogen, thinking they have cured the problem, but by then the damage may be done by the virus." Instead, growers should be sending yellow plants away for virus testing, he suggests. Even land in Aberdeenshire has been confirmed as being contaminated with BaYMV virus, points out Dr David Cranstoun of the SAC.

The two new feed barleys enter a slimmed down winter barley list. Into outclassed goes a large tranche of varieties: feed barleys Gaelic, Fighter, and Linnet, as well as malting types Angora, dual-purpose Puffin and traditional malting favourite Pipkin. Sunrise and Sprite disappear completely.

High yielding malting varieties Regina and Gleam are promoted into full UK recommendation. However, both are put into the special use section; Regina because of its potential weakness against yellow rust (rated 2), and Gleam for its use as a BaYMV resistant variety. Six-row Muscat is fully recommended for all the UK; Manitou is now limited to a northern recommendation.

Initially entered as a straight feed barley, a decision on Baton (Advanta Seeds) is deferred for more information on BaYMV resistance.

Feed candidate Peridot (Nickerson Seeds) didnt deliver sufficient yield, and is not recommended. Malting barley Spirit (New Farm Crops) failed to meet the high yield standards set by malting types Fanfare and Regina, and so is not recommended. The breeder is appealing against NIABs decision.

SPLITTING and skinning were major problems with Scottish spring barley grains last year. The new entrant to the UK recommended list – malting variety Chalice from New Farm Crops – should allay growers fears.

According to Dr David Cranstoun of the Scottish Agricultural College, this variety is likely to score well on both counts. "There is little varietal information about splitting, but in our experience the variety showing least splitting is Landlord," he explains. In order of merit, it is followed by Prisma, then Optic, with Chariot sitting on the borderline for acceptability. Tankard sits at the bottom of the scale.

Chalice is likely to come in with commendable splitting resistance at about the Prisma level, he suggests.

"Skinning, which also relates to how the husk behaves, may be related to splitting." Again, Chalice would be positioned at the better end of the scale, just behind Landlord, according to information from the breeder. Chalice also offers good resistance to ear shedding.

With Optic proving a fraction late for Scottish tastes, the earlier maturity of Chalice will be attractive. Dr Cranstoun welcomes the arrival of this variety as provisionally recommended for the north-east region.

Malting quality appears to be on par with Chariot, and treated yield score is just behind Optic. Rhynchosporium resistance is two points better than Chariot. Chalice is not awarded UK recommendation; Optic provides strong competition in the south.

Other changes

Other changes to the 1998 spring barley list include special use categorisation for Derkado. This variety is liked by certain distilleries, but because yield is relatively low, needs a premium to prop up profitability, says Dr Cranstoun.

Tankard goes to outclassed, following the recent removal of its Institute of Brewing provisional approval. Southern spring malting barley Alexis is downgraded to an 8 for malting, and also moves to outclassed, reflecting its falling market share. These two malting varieties are joined by feed barley Felicie, which failed to compete against Hart and Dandy. Tyne disappears from the list.

Extract (New Farm Crops) is not recommended, because yield does not match the high standard set by Optic. Ferment (New Farm Crops) and Livet (Nickerson Seeds) fail to meet the best malting requirements, and so are not recommended.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Heres a new scheme thats bursting with energy ideas. Tia Rund reports.

WHETHER you applaud or resent the notion of producer protocols, the requirement for an energy audit is one aspect where theres scope for some payback for your business.

Engineer Andrew Kneeshaw, of the Farm Energy Centre (FEC), explains. "Growers have had their hands forced by retailer protocols. With conservation measures, for example, they see very little else but money going out. But, by looking closely at energy efficiencies, its not uncommon to knock between £300 and £500 off the farms annual energy bill."

Until now growers keen to comply with buyers energy efficiency outlines would mostly have referred to a consultant, says Mr Kneeshaw. But these tend to be energy specialists with little experience in farm situations or, conversely, experts on farming with no great depth of knowledge on energy matters, he adds. "As a result audits have tended to be rather piecemeal and ad hoc."

The protocols themselves dont offer much guidance. "Its certainly worth referring to the sections of Tescos Natures Choice and LEAF protocols relating to energy efficiency. But they do tend to skirt round the issue. They beg a lot of questions but dont give many of the answers."

The FEC has responded to this situation by devising from scratch its own audit scheme, aimed initially at the potato and vegetable sector. The package comprises a range of pick n mix modules – such as the store, the packhouse and the greenhouse, but also field equipment and a general section covering heating, lighting and energy recording, for example.

Each module comprises a checklist with guidance notes to steer the user methodically through a structured self audit process to produce a customised action plan. "The main objective," explains Mr Kneeshaw, "is that each area is at least considered. The mere act of doing this should flush out the most serious problem areas and show where remedial action needs to be taken.

"Simple controls and fitting changes can add up to make quite considerable energy savings – for example time switches, thermostatic controls on heating systems and proximity controls to trigger lighting only when someone is in the area."

Draught proofing of refrigerated buildings – brush seals on doors and foam filling of any gaps in the structure – is another measure which wont cost much but can make a big difference, he adds. Air leakage is a significant source of energy loss.

Capital cost

Other measures can involve quite a high capital cost to implement, but reduce operating costs. For example, electronically controlled expansion valves on refrigeration equipment meter refrigerant more accurately than their cheaper mechanical counterparts, giving closer control of the evaporative temperature and therefore more efficient energy use.

"The extra investment might be £500 to £1,000 for the valve and associated equipment, but over its lifetime, you would see a handsome payback," notes Mr Kneeshaw.

"You really need to look at the energy consequences of new equipment over a three to five year period," notes Mr Kneeshaw. But often the primary efficiency of a system is one of the last things to be considered, he adds.

"When you employ a consultant to audit your energy use for you, the temptation might be to read the report and then leave it on the shelf. The value of immersing yourself in this DIY audit is that youre more likely to follow through with what needs to happen as a result," Mr Kneeshaw points out.

There is help and support available, though. The Energy Efficiency Reference Folder delves deeper into specific areas and has been compiled to cross refer with the audit document. It costs another £30 on top of the £40 which covers the scheme document, registration and a years subscription to the Farm Energy Update bulletin.

If you still want someone to do the job for you, or to remedy specific problems revealed by your own audit, an in-depth farm consultancy by an FEC engineer with written report and recommendations will cost around £400.

For packing groups, another option is for a single reference folder to be held centrally, with someone from the packers coordinating on behalf of members.

This is the role being adopted by Richard Mowbray, technologist for T A Smith & Co of Croft near Skegness, which markets about 800ha (2,000 acres) of brassicas, grown on its own farm, on rented land or on commission.

The company, together with A &#42 Worth, another Lincolnshire enterprise, was involved with the FEC scheme from the outset, helping to mould it into something practical and appropriate. Their farm is one of about 40 to have gone through the audit process so far.

"Its been very much a thought provoking exercise," says Mr Mowbray. "And it shows that youre thinking: protocols and ICM are as much about demonstrating compliance as anything."

Energy usage

As a result of the audit, he has started to look closer at energy usage, compiling monthly usage records. It also revealed immediately several areas of loss, such as one door in the cold store which was left open more than the others, which is now curtained.

"The scheme really comes into its own when you come to replace equipment. Its important then to consider a products expected life, even for something as simple as lights. Halogen lights may be cheaper, but they dont last as long as more energy efficient sodium ones. Equally, the newer type of infra red heaters are more efficient than gas burners."

Anyone can benefit from the scheme, believes Mr Mowbray, not just those chasing retailer partnerships. "Farms of more than 500 acres, particularly those with high energy use, could make substantial cost savings, especially when buying machinery," he says.

Although the Natures Choice protocol was the prompt for the scheme, it will soon be broadened to encompass arable operations. "Theres plenty to talk about on the cereal side," says Mr Kneeshaw. "The area of grain drying is one where theres often a lot of energy wasted.

"Therell also be an irrigation module, although operationally its difficult to find much room for improvement. Its more about selecting the right equipment in the first place.

"Weve also received feedback asking for more guidance in the workshop area."

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

The mild autumn is not only encouraging rape and cereal diseases, but is shortening the effective life of fungicides used to control them. Sarah Henly reports.

OILSEED rape diseases are keeping growers and agronomists on their toes, literally. Both phoma and light leaf spot are active and need watching carefully.

The mild conditions may shorten the active life of fungicides, leaving early sprayed rape unprotected by the New Year, warns Dr Peter Gladders at ADAS Boxworth.

"Incorrect spray timing cost growers about £80m in losses to light leaf spot and phoma two seasons ago. With new chemistry and a better understanding of how those diseases work, theres no excuse to get it seriously wrong again," he says.

He expects that treatments may last only four to six weeks under warm conditions rather than the usual eight or so.

"I can identify three scenarios -the first where a fungicide was applied early, the second where the first spray is going on now, and the third where there is no disease at present. Growers are likely to need a mid-winter follow-up for the first situation, a spring stem extension follow-up for the second, and a one-hit spring application for the third," he explains.

It is uncommon to have to apply an autumn fungicide treatment to winter cereals, but this autumn has been exceptionally mild. It has given a headstart to mildew and net blotch in barley, and mildew in wheat. It has also sparked off an unusual problem – barley yellow rust.

But are any diseases severe enough to warrant treatment before the new year? Heres what agronomists from around the country say.

LIGHT LEAF SPOT

There are few sightings of light leaf spot, even in early drilled crops.

According to HGCA-funded forecasts, the likely risk in the north of England is two in five crops with 25% or more of plants infected at early stem extension. In the east it is only one in 14 crops, while in the south and west, 20% to 30% of crops are at risk.

Nevertheless it would seem that no one is taking any chances. Without waiting for symptoms to appear, growers are applying a fungicide, mainly as an insurance against both light leaf spot and Phoma. Many crops around the country have been sprayed with products such as Punch C (flusilazole and carbendazim) at 0.4 litres/ha, which is the rate recommended for a two-way split between the autumn and the spring.

In Yorkshire, Rachel Webster of Yorkshire Arable Advice hopes growers who sprayed in October wont need to go back for light leaf spot control until early flowering. But she will monitor crops regularly for the bleached leaf blotches with a halo of white spores.

Further south, Richard Cartwright of Chichester Crop Consultancy expects early November applied treatments to need following up in February or March at early stem extension.

Dr Gladders warns that early autumn applied fungicides could run out of steam against light leaf spot. There is a limited window for spore movement into rape from crop debris, and the best timings for split treatments are late December and early March, provided symptoms do not appear before that.

PHOMA LEAF SPOT

Last season phoma didnt appear until December. This autumn the characteristic green spots with dark brown pinheads inside could be found from late October in early drilled rape crops in the south.

A surge in development occurred in November. Mr Cartwright recommended all his rape growers use Punch C or Sportak Alpha (prochloraz and carbendazim). When thresholds of one in 20 plants with at least one spot were reached, agronomists in the Midlands commonly followed suit.

In the east, Mrs Hayes was forced to recommend a late October application of Punch C. Where that occurred, she will err on the side of caution and apply a three spray programme. She is concerned early treatments will run out of steam before the traditional follow-up timing in March, so will go in during late December or January as well, using a half rate each time.

Dr Gladders supports that view. With an incubation period of just four weeks, Phoma could be back at worrying levels by later this month. All varieties except Express are at high risk, so crops growing on particularly high risk sites may need a second spray before Christmas.

BEET WESTERN YELLOW VIRUS

This disease hasnt been found in oilseed rape for a couple of years but could stage a comeback following this mild autumn. The vector, the peach-potato aphid, appeared in southern rape crops as early as September, although most came in during October.

Dr Alan Dewar of IACR-Brooms Barn recorded only a moderate catch in suction traps in Suffolk, but is concerned that they are flying later this autumn. That may extend their period of reproduction, provided conditions remain mild.

He was surprised that the October ground frosts didnt kill them off, and surmises that lush plant canopies kept them protected. The generally mild conditions are allowing them to persist and potentially transmit BWYV.

Whether or not there is justification for spraying, and what to use, depends on the strain of aphid in question. If the offenders are one of the two resistant types that exist in this country, then there is cause for concern. There are speculative reports that some of the aphids caught recently are of the MACE type, which are resistant to all currently recommended insecticides.

Aphid populations were so high in West Sussex that Mr Cartwright recommended all rape crops in his area were sprayed in mid-October with the pyrethroid insecticide, lambda-cyhalothrin (Hallmark). By that time rape plants had four or so leaves, thus the aphids were a hard target to reach. Mr Cartwright believes that is probably the reason only 80% kill was achieved.

MILDEW

Symptoms were seen as early as mid-October in early drilled barleys. Levels are apparently higher than last season, particularly in the north and Midlands.

In Rachel Websters area of Yorkshire, 20% of leaves had white, powdery mildew pustules on them by early November. She was starting to consider spraying when night frosts halted disease development.

As for wheat, thick, well-tillered crops are displaying symptoms, albeit at low levels. The early frosts also knocked them out quite well.

Its an age-old question – will you get a yield response from applying a fungicide for control in the autumn? According to Bill Clark, national cereal pathologist at ADAS Boxworth, even this year the answer is no.

"More often than not, the winter will check mildew development. The only situation where it may pay to spray before the new year is on light land where thin crops are at the mercy of frosts, and mildew further weakens them."

YELLOW RUST

Theres little to report about yellow rust in winter wheat. With less Brigadier in the ground, there is possibly less threat this season.

But what about yellow rust of winter barley? Mr Clark hasnt seen it for 15 years, so was a little concerned when symptoms characteristic of yellow rust appeared in a crop of Regina recently.

"We can only assume the inoculum has been ticking over all these years, and the mild conditions coupled with a highly susceptible variety have given rise to the disease again. Its interesting but not worth panicking about," he says.

However fungicide choice may have to be reviewed in future, particularly since there is a flush of highly susceptible varieties on the horizon. Some fungicides commonly used in the spring for broad-spectrum disease control dont kill barley yellow rust, he warns.

NET BLOTCH

Like mildew, net blotch has been severe enough to cause concern. The mild, damp conditions are giving it a boost. Very severe infections inhibited the establishment of some crops, but generally it is no more troublesome than last season.

Once again, frosts in October helped to keep it in check. The worst affected varieties seem to be Glean, Fanfare and Melanie.

Its prudent to keep a close eye on the disease to prevent its spread. Many agronomists are preparing to recommend early spring treatments with a powerful triazole combination.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

A shaft of light shines through the gloom of low arable incomes for those considering new farm investments, writes Mike Bird.

THE prospect of monetary union sooner or later, albeit beyond the term of the present parliament, means that longer-term interest rates should continue to converge with those of our European partners. Meanwhile, UK rates remain close to their lowest level for 20 years.

So in terms of net cost, there has rarely been a better time for farmers to invest, locking into low fixed rates of interest that are guaranteed not to move over the life of a finance agreement.

Inflationary pressures mean that bank lending rates are expected to continue on an upward path. This places an even greater strain on those who rely on short-term variable rate funding to finance the day-to-day needs of their business – and any major new investment.

The fall in arable incomes, although unpleasant, has not come as a total surprise. Many prepared for it when times were better by investing in modern specialist machinery, plant and equipment designed to add quality and value to crops and produce.

This foresight is one of the major reasons why the top performing arable units are seeing far lower falls in income than the average, which will help them ride out the recession.

Such farms understand the need to maintain investment within their core business and will be better prepared to take full advantage of the upturn, when it arrives.

However, Keith Jaynes, marketing manager of ING Farm Finance, stresses that every investment decision needs to be fully cost-justified, especially when farm incomes are under pressure.

"This does not mean abandoning all machinery expenditure when times get tough," he explains. "We recommend that growers establish clear and realistic management objectives together with a sound business plan setting out precise targets over a reasonable time period. That done, there is no reason why farmers should not continue to invest in new equipment to take advantage of the available opportunities, spreading the cost to match the expected life and return from the investment."

Mr Jaynes points out that those currently feeling the pinch can take a measure of comfort from the fact that farming has traditionally experienced up and downs. Yet, incomes have always recovered, accompanied by a heightened desire to improve productivity, quality and efficiency.

"But these three objectives cannot be turned on and off like a light switch," he says. "They need to be planned for both in good times and in bad by continuous improvement of the core business. That means maintaining steady investment through thick and thin to enable maximum advantage to be taken of every opportunity to boost income and profitability.

"Anyone who relies principally on cash or short-term borrowing to fund new investment will have few spare resources available at a time of severely restricted incomes. Even if they appreciate the importance of continued investment, it is unlikely that positive action can be taken without seriously affecting cashflow in the short term."

The findings of a 1994 report prepared by Cranfield College and 3is (Investors in Industry) remain valid today. The report pointed out that small businesses placed far too much dependence on short-term sources of capital to fund investments which have medium to long-term returns. Although a business might be profitable on paper, many failed simply because they ran out of liquid cash.

"When incomes are down, maintaining a healthy cashflow becomes even more important," says Mr Jaynes.

"The most efficient businesses recognise that there is little point in buying outright a machine which has a projected pay-back time of three or more years.

"For a start, a pound in three years time will be worth less than today, even at a modest rate of return. Why pay cash for a machine which has yet to earn a penny for the business and is quite capable of funding itself out of the income that it generates over time."

A key figure, says Mr Jaynes, is the cost of the investment to the business – a figure which remains unknown until the day the item is sold, not the day on which it is delivered. Recognising that price and cost are not the same can make a significant difference to sound business planning and profitable growth.

"Fixed cost finance really is a valuable tool for the progressive and efficient farm enterprise," points out Mr Jaynes. "When used to fund a new tractor, machine or vehicle, it produces a known figure for major capital expenditure for several years ahead, protecting the enterprise against volatility in the financial markets and against cashflow uncertainties.

Most finance companies are able also to tailor repayments precisely to match the net annual income of the business while reflecting a realistic period of use."

Although Mr Jaynes stresses that investment decisions should never be driven by tax considerations, the availability of a 50% first year capital allowance until 30 June 1998 is a welcome bonus for those who have carefully cost-justified new machinery or plant purchases.

"Experience has shown that investment success can be greatly enhanced by carefully investigating and costing those items which one believes can improve the business.

"For equipment with a medium to long-term payback period, opening an additional line of credit with a specialist finance house has the advantage of leaving existing bank facilities undisturbed to service the short-term variable and seasonal costs of the business."

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Did you manage to get an autumn herbicide on winter wheat when you wanted to – and has it done the job? Sarah Henly seeks an update on weed control.

CHALLENGING is a fitting word to describe the battle against weeds during this extended autumn.

Time was on growers sides with spraying windows available among the extremes of dry and wet, and mild and frosty. But herbicide programmes have had to be adjusted to prevent crop damage following their lush growth after the generally early start.

In general, September drilled wheats emerged evenly where moisture was conserved by rolling immediately after sowing. But those dry seedbeds now support patchy crops with plenty of space for weed encroachment. Fortunately the dry conditions also did little to encourage weeds.

Some growers decided to wait for more weeds and moisture to appear before applying a herbicide, only to be caught out by early frosts then uninterrupted rain. Many were forced to wait until this month to spray. Others got on early and now fear a second flush of weeds.

So will the result be poor weed control this winter? Here are theviews of four members of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants from across the country.

SOUTH

IN THE south, Peter Cowlrick of Chichester Crop Consultancy believes there may be some "mopping up" to do next spring. Fields which contain grass weeds as well as cleavers will be the priority.

Fortunately most early drilled crops have received at least one autumn residual herbicide, albeit different to the usual approach. There were noticeably fewer grass weeds about in early October, probably because they struggled to emerge in the dry. However Mr Cowlrick was keen to get a residual on as early as was practical to control meadow-grasses and broad-leaved weeds.

He considered seedbeds too dry and soil temperatures too high to use tri-allate (Avadex) or trifluralin against blackgrass successfully. Similarly, he was cautious of using a full rate of isoproturon, for fear of rapid crop growth and luxury herbicide uptake.

"Most growers needed to go in early with an aphicide for BYDV control and to achieve early weed control, so I recommended a third of the full rate of isoproturon with diflufenican to widen the broad-leaved weed spectrum.

"In blackgrass and wild oat infested fields, I planned to apply the remaining two-thirds, possibly with a contact acting product, along with the second aphicide in November. But the weather has turned wet and spraying opportunities have been few and far between. I think some follow-up sprays will inevitably be spring applied," explains Mr Cowlrick.

For the second hit in early drilled crops, growers must now be prepared to use a contact acting herbicide to control large grass weeds, for example fenoxaprop-ethyl (Cheetah R) or clodinafop-propargyl and trifluralin (Hawk), he stresses. He will contemplate recommending the new sulfonyl-urea, Lexus Class (flupyrsulfuron-methyl plus carfentrazone-ethyl) as a possible anti-resistance strategy against blackgrass, provided wild oats are not a threat.

EAST

CAROLINE Hayes, who works with the North Herts Farmers buying group, also advocates spraying grass weeds as early as possible in the autumn. She too was wary of using full rate isoproturon with an aphicide when crops were steaming ahead. So she tried a new approach suggested by weed specialist Jim Orson of ADAS Boxworth.

Mrs Hayes asked growers to go against every spraying principle and apply just 1 litre/ha of IPU in the early morning dew, when blackgrass plants were at the one leaf stage only. Aided by the moisture, the low rate spray is supposed to roll down the spear-shaped leaf and into the crown, killing the growing point.

It didnt quite do the trick, but the technique meant blackgrass plants which would otherwise be tillering were only at the two leaf stage by mid-November. At that time, a second flush of blackgrass was appearing in September drilled wheats, so Mrs Hayes was able to recommend an across-the-board residual treatment based on three-quarter rate isoproturon and diflufenican (Javelin).

"Where blackgrass wasnt sprayed with a low rate of isoproturon early, I have in some cases had to recommend a more expensive mixture incorporating a contact herbicide such as Puma or Hawk," she says.

She expects the only spring problems to be spring-germinating wild oats and cleavers, which havent yet been fully tackled. The former will be controlled using clodinafop-propargyl (Topik) or Cheetah R, depending on the best buy at the time.

Diflufenican did a holding job on autumn emerging cleavers, as the isoproturon did on the blackgrass. But fluroxypyr (Starane), or metsulfuron-methyl (Ally) if other broad-leaved weeds are also present, will be recommended with the first growth regulator treatment.

WEST

IN THE Cotswolds to the west, Brian Keen will increasingly be recommending some spring applications of the sulfonyl-urea herbicide amidosulfuron (Eagle). Not only cleavers, but increasingly fools parsley threatens many winter cereal crops in his region.

Mr Keen hopes his growers wont have to return to control the main weed target on the clay soils – blackgrass. Poorer control in recent years, where resistance is developing, has encouraged greater use of Avadex at sowing. This year he fears it may not work as well as usual, due to the dry conditions at the time of application.

"I recommended that Avadex treated crops had a follow-up treatment in late October or early November with a mixture of IPU and trifluralin or diflufenican, depending on the weed spectrum. In theory this sequence should sort out blackgrass and broad-leaved weeds. However in late October it was too dry for IPU to work effectively," he explains.

Most growers delayed spraying, not only to wait until soils were moist, but also to avoid damaging crops during the incredibly cold snap in late October, when an air temperature of -7íC was recorded at nearby RAF Benson. Early November was wet and windy, delaying applications further. By mid-November, only 40% of Mr Keens cereal area was treated, compared with the usual 70%

His recommendations still apply, at least for part of December. "IPU works best when the soil temperature has fallen and seedbeds are moist. But unless the weather improves soon, well look back on this season as a difficult one."

NORTH

ITS not often that northern growers have things easier than in the south. But Andrew Fisher, agronomist for Yorkshire Arable Advice, considers this has been a straightforward autumn.

"We havent had the large volumes of rain in Yorkshire and County Durham that they have in the south and east. Much spraying was done in early November when it was dry and mild, and most should be completed before the weather closes in this month," he predicts.

Fortunately few fields in his patch contain blackgrass, so there isnt the need for an early "Rolls Royce" approach. Annual meadow-grasses and chickweed are the main threats in winter wheat. Those were tackled with a mixture of isoproturon and diflufenican.

"IPU was the obvious choice. By late October, its price had fallen to about £14 for a 5-litre can, and we used it with Oyster or Amulet at a sufficient rate to achieve control of all weeds, with the exception of volunteer oilseed rape," explains Mr Fisher.

Volunteer rape has become more troublesome in cereals in recent years, and this autumn it is at its worst in Yorkshire, despite the good harvest. Seed that has laid dormant for several years found conditions right for germination.

Fortunately, conditions were also right earlier on in the autumn to mix a little mecoprop in with isoproturon without risk of scorch. So controlling the volunteers hasnt been a problem. But paying attention to rape management after harvest would avoid having to take chances, he stresses.

All that remains to be done in the spring is to finish off the cleavers which were softened up by the diflufenican, probably with Starane. All in all, it should be a less challenging year than usual for northern growers.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Growing for the health food market can yield healthy profits – if its done the right way. Gilly Johnson seeks the best ways with borage.

BORAGE was the most profitable crop on the farm for Cambs grower Michael Picton last year – but hes not that keen to shout about it.

Thats because with niche market crops, profits are dependent on supply and demand. If everyone jumps on the bandwagon, then prices inevitably suffer.

This is just what happened a few years ago, when the Chinese disrupted the UK borage market by overproducing evening primrose, which is an alternative source of the special oils demanded by the health and pharmaceutical sector. Some UK borage growers had their fingers burnt as a result; at that time Mr Picton steered clear.

Nowadays Essex-based merchant Kings of Coggeshall, specialist in the more obscure, high value crops, protects its growers from this trap by only offering borage buy-back contracts when an end user is already committed to take the tonnage.

This takes away some of the risk – but puts a limit on the acreage available. For commercial reasons, Kings director Stewart Green shies away from revealing the total area of borage last year in the UK. "Its a niche market. Returns depend on maintaining a small but stable acreage."

But he does confirm that gross margins can be "around the £700/ha mark". This is a conservative estimate; other sources suggest that growers were seeing over £800/ha (£324/acre) last year.

Sounds attractive – particularly when you take into account the fact that borage is not supported by IACS. These returns do not include any aid element. Borage can be grown profitably on either IACS registered land – without claiming aid, or on non-registered fields. However, it does not qualify as an industrial crop for set-aside use.

Mr Picton grew his 11ha (28 acres) on IACS registered land, as part of a wheat/rape based rotation on predominantly heavy clay soils at Townsend Farm, Easton, near Huntingdon.

Following better returns than any of his other mainstream arable crops, hes happy with this first foray into borage, though aware that it could be a risky crop without careful management. But as a long term seed grower, Mr Picton has had wide experience of handling more demanding crops. This is last years successful strategy.

The borage was drilled into one of the farms more easy working, lighter fields, on 2 April. The seed has a rather unfortunate resemblance to mouse droppings, with a rough surface. This leads to problems with flow through the drill. Mr Picton used a Massey Ferguson 510 air drill. "It was tricky – the seed kept bridging. Next spring we intend trying a modified Bettinson instead."

The seedbed was rolled after drilling to save moisture. Sown at 17.5kg/ha (15lbs/acre) with variety Gladiator, seed emerged promptly and established well, despite some unevenness. The young borage grew vigorously and quickly, smothering weeds. No herbicides were used in the crop.

A nitrogen treatment – 120kg N/ha (96 units/acre) was applied mid May. This was to encourage a slight lean to the crop canopy, which helps harvesting. "At the time I wondered whether wed been a little too mean with the nitrogen, but the rain in late summer led to lush growth, and tilted the crop over anyway."

As a product destined for the health sector, pesticides are strictly limited. Mr Picton used just two sprays with liquid sulphur (5l/ha with each) for summer mildew.

A non-determinate plant, borages ripening process is extended and erratic, so its difficult to decide when best to cut the crop. Seed heads will shed readily, losing yield if left too long.

Mr Picton placed plastic bags under the plants, and when dropped seed was becoming obvious, sent the swather through, slowly and smoothly to prevent blockages. The timing for this operation fitted in well, coming at the end of July between the rape and wheat harvest.

The crop was then left for about two weeks. "The swath is fleshy and takes longer to dry than rape," he recalls. "Within a day it shrinks, and goes absolutely flat on the ground." During this time the weather was kind. "If it had been wetter, then we might have had more problems. When we lifted the borage off, you could still see the damp ground underneath."

Combining such a flat swath was a challenge. Mr Picton used a draper header combine. The borage came in at 600kg/ha (4.75cwt/acre), after being put through the farms own dresser – a somewhat nerve-wracking experience, given that the seed is worth about £2,000/t. Although happy for growers to do their own pre-cleaning, Kings has the specialist equipment necessary for full cleaning.

Mr Pictons yields were a good average, according to the companys experience with other growers. No drying was necessary; seed was at the required 8% moisture standard.

Yields might have been greater, believes Mr Picton, if the cold summer had not stopped bee activity in the crop. "At the time we were worried about pollination, and had some hives brought into the field in an effort to limit any possible damage to yield." Losses at combining might also have been improved upon, he adds.

This spring Mr Picton plans to stay with the crop. With inputs limited to only two sulphur sprays and a little nitrogen, borage is cheap to grow. But it does need care and attention. "It is a risky crop – perhaps we were lucky last year. Im a little concerned about borage volunteers this season – well have to work out how these might be eliminated."

Kings of Coggeshall still has some borage contracts open for this spring. "This isnt a crop for speculative growers – were looking for reliable people who are prepared to put a little time and effort in, and who will work with us on a regular basis," says Mr Green. Borage is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, and could be grown from the south up to Yorkshire.

"Anyone who is interested in new crop developments is welcome to contact us – we have other options in the pipeline."

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

&#8226 RESEARCHERS at North Carolina State University may have found a new way to protect crops from pests. New Scientist reports that electric shocks given to single tomato leaves triggered the production of natural insecticides throughout the plants.

&#8226 THE National Malting Barley Competition for England and Wales has been won by a sample of Cooper grown by A Garton & Sons of Tarbock, near Liverpool.

The general quality of more than 100 entries was said to be just moderate, reflecting the poor season.

&#8226 TERRA Industries of Sioux City, Iowa, is buying ICIs UK-based fertiliser business for £200m. The deal includes ICIs ammonia, nitric acid, sodium nitrate and liquid carbon dioxide assets in Billingham on Teesside and Severnside near Bristol. The UK business will be renamed Terra Nitrogen UK.

The ICI purchase is Terras first expansion outside the US. The $2.3bn turnover company specialises in fertiliser, crop protection products and seeds.

&#8226 REGISTRATION has been granted to two new products – the cereal fungicide, Unix and cereal seed treatment Evict.

Unix contains new chemistry – cyprodinil – and provides broad spectrum disease control in wheat and barley, says Novartis.

Evict, from Zeneca, is based on the active ingredient in Force – tefluthrin – and gives control of wheat bulb fly and wireworm.

&#8226 GERMANYS Social Democratic party, which recently dropped its opposition to genetics in agriculture, has advised the Green party to follow suit. This, reports European Chemical News, is as a prerequisite for a potential coalition government following 1998 parliamentary elections.

&#8226 THE HGCA has moved – to Caledonia House, 223 Pentonville Road, London N1 9NG. Tel 0171 520 3920.

Next year sees its listening panel initiative, intended to gauge what information levy payers need and how theyd like to receive it. Copies of the 1996/97 Annual Report, which reports individual department activities for the first time, are available from the new address.

&#8226 YET another acquisition by one of the Big Four. This time Deere & Company has reached an agreement to acquire Dutch sprayer manufacturer Douven.

&#8226 THE HGCAs annual grain haulage survey shows that the basic haulage rate in Great Britain has risen by about 3% over 1996. The average is £4.12 for a 25 mile journey, or £5.87/t for 75 miles.

&#8226 CONGRATULATIONS to Philip Croucher of Allied Mills at Ely, who earns the 1997 Transport and Distribution Manager of the Year title against strong competition from professionals from all walks of the transport business.

&#8226 GROWERS who can demonstrate attention to detail are invited to enter the Nitram Award for best fertiliser practice, which aims to reward the most efficient and profitable use of fertilisers on arable crops. Presented by ICI Fertilizers, in conjunction with the NFU, FWAG and Farmers Weekly, a national winner will receive £3,000, to be spent on an environmental project. Call Judith Robinson on 01642 437754 for an entry form.

&#8226 THE BAA, together with LEAF, FWAG, the RSPB, and the Game Conservancy Trust, has produced a practical 90 page book, Arable Wildlife: Protecting Non-target Species. Information is presented from three standpoints – different habitats on the farm, different crops using a crop calendar of the seasons and by individual species or groups of species. It costs £7.50, including p&p, from the BAA.

&#8226 THE Advisory Committee on Pesticides reports that the number of deliberate, illegal attempts to poison animals in 1996 increased by 20% over the previous year, to 114 incidents. Suspected incidents of poisoning of animals by pesticides should by reported on a free phone number 0800 321600.

&#8226 RHONE-Poulenc has filed a lawsuit in the US against Monsanto and DeKalb which seeks to establish its ownership of their Roundup Ready maize seed technology.

&#8226 THE IPU UK Task Force – the group established by three major agrochemical companies to promote the responsible use of pesticides – has published a waterproof poster highlighting guidelines to keep pesticides out of watercourses. Available from agrochemical suppliers, the poster is intended to be displayed in farm chemical stores.

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13 December 1997

Considering a new sprayer? Peter Hill weighs up the choice.

IF YOUVE a modest acreage of cereals and, perhaps, a little oilseed rape to look after, deciding on the most appropriate sprayer is pretty straight-forward. After all, a tractor-mounted machine with a 15m to 18m boom should cope perfectly adequately and at reasonable cost.

Similarly, when an estate-size acreage is involved and capacity is the over-riding consideration, then the choice is likely to come out in favour of a self-propelled, perhaps with a 3,000 litres tank and 24m, or bigger, boom.

But what about the middle ground? When an 1,800 to 2,000 litres spray tank and 20m to 24m boom is enough, the choice becomes more complex. Should it be mounted, demount, trailed or self-propelled?

The choice is influenced by considerations that go beyond the spraying operation itself; most notably how the spraying vehicle fits in with the rest of the farms power fleet.

A tractor-mounted outfit offers the least expensive solution. A 1,200/800 litres rear tank-front tank combination makes it well-balanced with some element of self-propelled spraying characteristics.

Boom width may be compromised; 24m on a tractor-mounted sprayer is not an every-day specification, and it is not always an elegant solution in terms of cab access with booms folded. But nor is this application particularly demanding on a 70hp to 80hp machine that could have seen a few years service on other tasks before earning a slightly easier life.

It is also attractive that, as with other tractor-based sprayers, the investment goes into spraying kit rather than a power unit that, in the case of a specialist self-propelled, is likely to be a single-use vehicle.

That is the theory; except that a comprehensive wrap-around outfit does rather tie the tractor to spraying operations. Yes, the equipment can be dropped off to release it for other tasks. But in reality the time involved means the attraction of this cost-saving concept soon pales.

Weight and a lack of transmission speed control – relative to the hydrostatic drive of a self-propelled sprayer – also count against the tractor-based spraying outfit to some extent.

A demount sprayer, fitted to a systems tractor is one alternative. And as dedicated spraying machines, vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz Unimog, JCB Fastrac, Fendt Xylon and Clayton C-Trac have a lot going for them.

It is a neater solution, in some respects, than a front-and-back combination on a conventional tractor, with just one unit to dismount to release the machine for other work.

Add the Clayton and Fastracs four-wheel steering and there is the added attraction of improved manoeuvrability and single wheelings at headlands.

Conversely, weight – strongly rear-biased – and a relative lack of transmission versatility count against the system tractor based outfit. So does the lack of ground clearance -though less so with the Clayton C-Trac which can take quite large diameter rowcrop wheels.

All three machines offer spacious and comfortable driver accommodation and a greater degree of task versatility than a conventional tractor.

The Fastracs particular attraction is its high road speed – a key consideration for farms expanding through contract farming or acquisition of land away from the home block. And if there is a need for additional capacity, the concept can be pushed to include a front-mounted tank instead of having to change the entire outfit.

Trailed sprayers have made a comeback, particularly at the higher capacity end, with more modern controls and functions, and tracking drawbars that eliminate the wheelings penalty. Sophisticated axle suspension also makes them a viable alternative to a smaller self-propelled machine, while high-speed running gear matches the capability of a fast tractor.

A tractor-trailed sprayer combination can never match the manoeuvrability or relative compactness of the demount or self-propelled but it does have the advantage of spreading its weight over three axles.

Quick-coupling hydraulics, fewer electrical connections and semi-mounting on the tractor linkage arms mean the trailed sprayer can be separated from the power unit more readily than either front tank-rear tank or demount units, with nothing but a spray controller/monitor to hinder the tractors application on other duties.

Arguments against? With a chassis and running gear of its own, the trailed sprayer is a more costly solution than other tractor-based options and, unless a natty self-tracking drawbar is included, extra wheelings at headlands are a penalty. Sideling land can also prove problematic for trailer sprayers.

The self-propelled sprayer appeals to those who want the ultimate in dedicated equipment; some operators do try to improve utilisation of their investment by swapping spray gear for fertiliser spreaders, sometimes seed drills as well.

But, on the whole, spraying (which might include liquid fertiliser application) is the sole task for such machines.

With stiff competition at the 2,000 litres/20 to 24m level, how does the self-propelled sprayer justify itself? By being ready, at the drop of a hat, for any spraying task, for one thing. No juggling of workload, no hitching up of equipment, no compromises.

From the operators point of view, the self-propelled usually offers the best in-field driving characteristics in terms of steering manoeuvrability and speed control, good visibility from a mid or forward mounted cab, and an integrated sprayer control arrangement which places everything where it needs to be rather than where it best fits.

Co-ordinated steering also means single wheelings at headlands, while the coil spring, air and hydraulic axle suspension systems of modern designs give operator, chassis, sprayer and boom a smoother run.

Lower weight, greater wheel and tyre size flexibility and the fine and progressive speed control that comes with hydrostatic transmission or wheel motor drive, along with good crop clearance for late-season work, are other clear advantages for the self-propelled sprayer.

For many, that is enough to justify the substantially higher investment required for such a machine in comparison with any of the alternative solutions.

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13 December 1997

The modern loader is ensuring its demand with faster, tougher and more precise handling. Peter Hill looks at the new developments.

TRACTOR loaders will continue to play a leading role in farm handling duties, despite the growing popularity of telehandlers and wheeled loaders, believes Louis Mailleux, head of French manufacturer Mailleux SA.

"Telescopic handlers have had a big impact in Britain but less so in other European countries," he points out.

Emphasising that the modern tractor/loader combinations offer many of the features seen as advantages in specialist handling vehicles.

These include single-lever controls for faster work cycles, more precise operation, and electro-hydraulic shuttle gearboxes which overcome the high clutch wear suffered by tractors with manual transmissions.

Both features also make tractor loaders easier for the operator to use. And with increased payload and lift height capabilities, these factors will help maintain strong demand for tractor loaders, he says.

In Britain, Mailleux importer Chillton Agricultural faces a tougher situation with industry figures showing a 30% drop in tractor loader sales since 1990. More new sophisticated models in the pipeline may help stem the tide, believes Chilltons Mike Johnson, while strengthening the companys UK market share.

Mailleux export manager, Henri Langlais, says British farmers tempted by telehandlers should not overlook the capabilities of a modern loader.

"Although a telescopic handler may have an occasional advantage with more reach and payload capacity, in practice tractor loaders are often just as capable when it comes to day-to-day use," he suggests.

"And with quick-hitch and hydraulic coupling systems that enable the loader to be put on or taken off in less than a minute, farmers can make good use of the tractor for other work."

Despite its defence of the tractor loader, Mailleux does not rule out the possibility of getting involved in alternative types of handling/loading machinery.

"We dont have the manufacturing resources for our own telescopic handler at present but we would consider any opportunity to apply our loader expertise to such a machine in partnership with another company," says Mr Mailleux.

Meanwhile, having secured a near-50% share of the large French market for tractor loaders, Mailleux is looking to develop its business through exports which, at present, account for 20% of the 6000-unit annual production.

Heavy investment in robotic welding systems and more sophisticated fabrication equipment is geared to reducing costs and increasing capacity. Computerised design facilities have eased the complex task of producing loaders to fit a myriad of tractor makes and models.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Weather and the environment took centre stage at a conference last month. Gilly Johnson reports.

EACH season is yielding a fresh crop of weather statistics – adding to the evidence that global warming is here.

1997 is on course to be the warmest year on record. And the last two and a half years have been the driest since records began. Faced with such facts, more scientists are becoming convinced that the UK climate is changing – and that agriculture must adapt.

Dr Nick Reynard is one of the converted, though he is careful to point out that our extraordinary weather just might be a blip in long term natural variation. As one of the team in the Global Atmosphere Division at the newly titled Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (formerly the DoE), Dr Reynards task is to investigate changing trends in UK weather.

"Although we may think its a lack of rain that has affected agriculture in the past 10 years, in fact its the increasing variability of weather that has given the most serious problems – droughts and then floods," he told a climate change conference in Harrogate last month, organised by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group. "Were on a hydrological roller coaster."

Statistics confirm that weather records are now being routinely broken as the UK climate becomes more changeable and extreme. The period 1988 to 1992 was the driest four-year spell ever recorded – but December 1989 was the wettest.

Despite occasional flooding, long term drought is raising the most worries. "River flows are exceptionally low, aquifers are at record low levels and groundwater supplies need about 10 weeks of average rainfall before water reserves can even start to build up again," said Dr Reynard.

But initial hopes that rainfall this autumn could restore supplies were dashed by the dry October.

Growers should be prepared for warmer temperatures and drier summers. "On balance, more rain is falling in winter than in summer, which suggests we are shifting to a more Mediterranean style climate."

Government predictions are for a rise in the average temperature of 1.6íC by 2050. "The figures seem small, but dont be deceived. We should remember that our warmest year this century was just 1íC hotter than the average," said Dr Reynard.

Night and winter temperatures will rise most. The south east of the UK should bear the brunt of the change. Rainfall patterns are harder to predict, he admitted. "There could be 10% more rain, but it is likely to fall in winter. Summer rainfall could drop by about 8%." Again, most of the impact will be felt in the south east.

MAFF is spending £990,000 on climate change research this year. Answers are being sought as to what the effect on the industry might be. The hot summer of 1995 cost about £180m, according to an ADAS survey – though some of this was borne by consumers, rather than producers.

"We are beginning to have a handle on how the farming industry might best adapt to climate change. Growers would be wise to start thinking about it now," warned Dr Diane Wilkins of MAFF.

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13 December 1997

By 2000, arable production in Eastern Europe could present a serious challenge. Gilly Johnson checks out the figures from a farm survey.

THE COLD War may be over, but Europe faces a new threat from the former Eastern Bloc countries: commercial competition.

Arable production in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic is highly cost effective. Given some improvements to the infrastructure and better marketing, these growers could potentially overtake French, German and British producers by the year 2000 – and thats without any help from EU area aid.

A detailed study of comparative large-scale businesses in Europe, the US and the Eastern Bloc was undertaken by Andersons Farm Business Consultants last year, sponsored by fertiliser manufacturer Hydro Agri.

The aim was to assess where UK growers stood in relation to world wide competition – and to make some educated guesses about our future prospects.

Using wheat as a base line crop, gross and net margins were compared for 1995 and 2000. Fuelled by yield improvements, coupled with the low cost of labour and rent, the efficiency of the Eastern Bloc pans out ahead of the UK by the year 2000. But most alarming is the fact that wheat can be grown so competitively without EU area aid.

"Social problems, inflation and exchange rate movements could all affect these financial predictions," says George Brewis. "But we should be aware of the potential for efficient wheat production in countries now outside the EU.

"The question for us is how long will it take for these obstacles to production fall away in eastern Europe?"

Sooner or later, such potential competition must mean further rationalisation – fewer, bigger farms – in the UK, he concludes. "We must maintain our high yields. Otherwise there is no contest between their system and our high cost production; eastern Europe would win hands down."

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

The sweet and sour marriage

continues

THE relationship between beet growers and British Sugar has never been an easy one. L ,ike a bickering long-married couple, each partner knows it needs the other – but still cant live in peace after many years spent rowing.

At the heart of the latest argument is the issue of crown tares. Should British Sugar pay growers for the estimated £10m worth of sugar they squeeze out of the top of the root, as the NFU negotiators are demanding – or not?

Its clear that growers are backing the NFU argument. They are not impressed by British Sugars veiled threats that if growers dont back down, then the company may have to take greater control of haulage arrangements – which might rule out growers using their own lorries to carry beet to the factories.

There are carrots on offer, and these were detailed in a company leaflet sent out to growers. First, there is the suggestion that quota siphoning may be discontinued. This is the unpopular practice of removing 30% of beet quota when farm businesses change hands.

Second, the company is dangling the prospect of contract trading, whereby growers would be able to bid for extra quota.

With these benefits apparently dependent on giving way on the crown tare argument, the debate is rapidly approaching deadlock. Meanwhile, beet profitability is shrinking on farm. Sugar cheques are down by one-fifth on last year, which does nothing to sweeten British Sugars case. It has to be said that this is due to the strength of sterling and not British Sugars fault – but it adds to growers sense of grievance.

The relationship between growers and British Sugar is on the rocks. Is it a case for marriage guidance – or arbitration?

Blind faith!

SOMETHING strange has occurred north of the border. NIAB wheat variety trials have been afflicted by a mysterious calamity.

For once, its not crop circles appearing overnight – instead its blind ears. This is a problem guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of growers and the seed trade alike, ever since the sorry saga of Moulin. That variety bombed after fertility problems became apparent, only after a large area had been drilled.

With wheat, blind grain sites are not unusual, but the plant usually compensates by filling another site somewhere else on the ear. Growers dont notice because yields are not affected. But at NIABs Aberdeen site this summer, many varieties were hit so badly that yield losses were significant – almost half, in some cases.

Its likely that unusual weather, namely late frosts, lack of sunshine and heavy summer rain was responsible. There is anecdotal evidence that other local crops were also hit. But because some varieties were affected more badly than others, there could be a varietal effect as well. So NIAB decided to include the figures as a separate table within the HGCA variety summary in this issue of Crops.

They were right to do so. Until plant breeders and/or agronomists can come up with a full explanation for last seasons abnormal results, growers have no way of knowing what the chances are of such problems recurring. But we have been warned…

A mood of militancy

THERES a mood of militancy in the air, and arable growers are no doubt watching and noting the exploits of their beef farming brethren.

But, if the aim is to arm themselves against the unknown, would they be better taking a leaf out of the North American growers book? OK, we all know its litigation lunacy over there, but mightnt there be just a soupçon of sense in the food disparagement laws in 13 states that make it a crime to criticise perishable agricultural products without sound supporting scientific evidence?

Horticultural industry leaders managed recently to persuade Proctor and Gamble to withdraw magazine ads which linked tomatoes with E coli contamination without recourse to the courts. But next time?

And if youre one of those who dont believe that grains image could possibly be tarnished, that theres no need for protection from uninformed opinion, just take a look at the potential consumer issues raised in storage alone (see p22) – each of them the proverbial accident waiting to happen.

Should the industry consider a positive offensive?

Banging on about biotech

THE French government has over-turned its ban on the planting of genetically modified maize. The green light has been given to corn-borer resistant GM varieties from Novartis, which means that French growers will now be able to drill these types next spring.

Its only a partial victory for the plant breeders and biotech companies. GM herbicide resistant rape and sugar beet are still banned -despite the fact that imports of GM soya and rape products are allowed.

This contradictory position only goes to illustrate the muddle Europe is in on biotechnology. The problem is that consumers are yet to be persuaded that they, and not just agribusiness, stand to benefit from genetic engineering.

The truth is that they do – but the message is not getting across. In the US, scientists are now testing edible vaccines, contained within genetically-engineered potatoes. Potentially, anyone eating these spuds is given immunity to E-coli diarrhoea. This disease is a major killer of children, particularly in developing countries.

Also under investigation is a new drug against meningitis – a life-threatening disease which can overcome antibiotics. This drug has been created through the genetic manipulation of a protein produced by human immune cells.

These are just two examples of the benefits biotechnology can offer – but companies will not continue to make the huge investment necessary for research if they fear commercial returns could be blocked by political uncertainty.

Meanwhile in Europe we continue to prevaricate. The issue of labelling GM foodstuffs still hasnt been finalised. Lets get moving, or well miss out.

Brussels may limit spray use

AUTUMN herbicide spray programmes went well this season, thanks to ample weather windows. Sprayers are now safely tucked up in the shed for the winter.

Thats the good news; now heres the bad. Within three years, the freedom to use the pesticides required, just when they are needed, could be curtailed. Under discussion in Brussels is a new plan to limit crop protection products used – whether through taxation or a limit on the total weight of active ingredient put on to each crop.

This issue has been aired by the Commission before, but dismissed. It is returning to the agenda – and this time around the industry is predicting that a new policy will be imposed. Proposals are scheduled for 1999.

Agrochemical manufacturers are understandably concerned. It was an issue that raised much indignation at the annual agrochemical gathering in Brighton recently (see p36-37).

But it is not just the manufacturers profits that are at risk. If limits are brought in, or if prices are raised with taxation, then growers will also suffer.

The most frustrating fact is that the justification for extra legislation is highly questionable. Pesticide use in Europe is now regulated by some of the most stringent safety legislation in the world. Limiting usage would not necessarily help consumer safety; its just not that simple.

The industry needs to demonstrate both to consumers and to the Brussels policy makers the enormous scale of what is already being done. It needs to show, publicly, its commitment to integrated crop management. A free market, but ruled by strict safety and environmental impact legislation, is the best system for all – growers, consumers and the environment.

Whats sauce for the goose…

IF BUMS on seats are any measure of success, then the regional farm assurance roadshows have done the business. Growers were keen to attend and hear the arguments. But they were also eager to air their worries – loudly – about the extra paperwork and cost that will be attached to membership of the Assured Combinable Crops scheme.

With farm incomes down 37% for 1997 according to MAFF, the squeeze is on. Its a difficult time to introduce more constraints on businesses. But this is one issue that must be taken on board.

Farm assurance is inevitable. It will either arrive with industry consultation and co-operation, or it will be imposed by Government and/or supermarket buyers.

Growers need to look forward, be brave and make the leap into an assured future. Those attending the roadshows will have come away with a better understanding of whats involved. It boils down to common sense and responsible farm practice – and who would argue with that?

Grain buyers need to demonstrate that the principles of farm assurance will not stop at national borders. They must insist that imported supplies meet the same high standards, and prove to UK growers that whats sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander.

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13 December 1997

THE Saskatchewan Wheat Pool has compensated 90 Canadian growers of AgrEvos LibertyLink herbicide tolerant oilseed rape for patchy germination and poor yields. Three seed lots fell below germination standard. A further 75 growers claims were not honoured.

HYDRO Agri is cutting back fertiliser production at three European sites following a sluggish start to the 1997/98 season. Production at Ambes in France has been halted, while that at Rostock in Germany and Immingham in the UK was cut back by 50% and 20% respectively for an initial period of three weeks. The company expects demand to pick up later in the season and for total fertiliser consumption to match last years.

DUTCH trials at the University of Wageningen have shown that fat hen can be controlled by the fungus Ascochyta caulina, without affecting crops such as wheat and sugar beet.

THE number of EU farm holdings dropped by 5% between 1993 and 1995, according to the British Agrochemical Associations Grapevine publication. The figures from Brussels also show the fall in the UK over the same period was 4%.

THE Scottish Agricultural College has established OFAH, a free organic advisory helpline. SACs network of local advisory offices and its specialist staff give advice on the statutory, technical and financial implications of conversion to organic production. Funded by SOAEFD, the helpline is 01224 711072.

PAULS MALT, the UKs largest maltster, is closing its Gainsborough and Louth maltings. Further job losses throughout the company are expected. The rationalisation, it says, will enable it to concentrate more effectively on core areas and to maintain its competitive position on world markets.

FERULIC acid, an ultraviolet blocking ingredient used in suncreams, has been found in common fungi on farm wastes such as cereal bran and sugar beet pulp by the Institute of Food Research in Norwich. The acid is currently manufactured chemically.

A US DRUGS company has tested a plant-produced antibody in humans for the first time, according to the New Scientist. The antibodies, produced in corn plants, kill tumour cells.

THE LAMMA show is being held at the Newark and Notts showground this year on 28 to 29 January.

MAFF is hiring a design consultancy to enhance its image, at an estimated cost of £100,000, according to Marketing Week. Design agency Tatham Pearce will review the ministrys name and visual identity.

ZENECA is to acquire Japanese ISKs worldwide business for chlorothalonil plus distribution rights outside the Asia Pacific for four other products including fluazinam, sold in the UK as Shirlan. Chlorothalonil is said to be complementary to Zenecas own azoxystrobin product, Amistar.

ELSOMS Seeds have a new service to contract prime and coat customers own seed for the coming season. Seed treatments are provided for more than 40 different crops. Seed priming, using the drum process developed by HRI Wellesbourne to promote accelerated rates of uniform germination is currently available on selected Elsoms varieties of leek, parsnip, carrot, onion and bunching onions.

1997 will turn out to be the warmest year ever recorded in the world, and the third warmest in Britain, according to the Met Office. The average temperature in central England last year was 10.5íC; 1990 is the record holder with average temperaturtes of 10.6íC.

REGISTER before the end of Febuary for the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme if you want to assure harvest 1998 and 1999 grain for a single fee. Contact the ACC Registrar, United Kingdom Food Quality Certification Ltd, Long Hanborough, Witney, Oxon OX8 8LH. Ph 01993 883883.

AGROCHEMICALS distributor Profarma becomes the UKs third largest supplier following its merger with Premier Crops.

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13 December 1997

Vent-a-Floor in situ concrete drying floors are now available nationwide from Ben Burgess. Formwork remains in place for added strength and to ensure consistent flooring depth, and the design ties-in grain walling and air tunnel legs to allow 3.7m (12ft) storage depth.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Its an old idea but an effective one for maximising grain store capacity, says Richard Flach, from Flach & Le-Roy, of this doorway barrier. To empty the store, simply pull out the beams one-by-one, starting from the bottom, and bucket or auger the grain away.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Growers with worn steel pit liners or intake sites with a high water table are using purpose-made conveyor hoppers like this Mechanical Reception Conveyor from Perry of Oakley. It comes with a choice of conveyor and elevator combinations, as well as on wheels for locations with awkward access. There are 2.4m and 3.1m (8ft and 10ft) wide versions with 20t to 100t/hr capacities.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/13

13 December 1997

Extracting dust from grain as it is dried not only improves working conditions but can improve specific weight, says Bill Ingram of Master Driers. A £1,700 kit, available for new or existing Master machines, comprises a hose connector on top of the bubble-up recirculation auger, a fan, discharge hose and free-standing cyclone separator. Suction strength is adjustable.

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