Archive Article: 1998/06/26 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 1998/06/26

26 June 1998

HAVE you done your bit to dissuade government officials from imposing a hefty environmental tax on pesticide and fertiliser inputs? If not you need to act now – the Royal Show closing date for our "Just Say No" campaign is approaching fast.

FARMERS WEEKLY has already had a huge response to the campaign. But have you played your part too?

If the prospect of paying a duty of up to 125% on every litre of spray and every tonne of fertiliser fills you with dread then join the protest now and complete the coupon below.

&#8226 Responses will be presented to Mr Meacher in early July.

Dear Mr Meacher,

I object strongly to your plans to impose an environmental tax on pesticide and fertiliser inputs.

I believe it would do untold harm to UK farming and bring very little benefit for the environment.

I urge you to reconsider these plans.

Name: …………………………………

Address:……………………………….

…………………………………………..

…………………………………………..

SEND TO: Farmers Weekly, "Just Say No" Campaign, Quadrant House, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS.

or Fax to: 0181 652 4005

or Bring along to the FW at the Royal Show, Stand M300.

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Archive Article: 1998/06/26

26 June 1998

IN BRIEF

&#8226 GROWERS from East Anglia, Lincs and Notts have joined forces to create the UKs largest carrot producing company. Known as Fresh Growers, it expects to supply most of the main supermarket packers as well as processors and wholesalers from June 1999.

&#8226 FARMERS in north Wales have been urged by the Country Landowners Association to be more security-conscious following a spate of vehicle thefts from farms in the area.

Four-wheel drive vehicles, quad bikes and trailers left unsecured on holdings in the Anglesey, Denbighshire and Flintshire areas have been stolen in recent weeks.

A common element in the crimes, according to the CLA, was poor security which made the equipment easy targets for thieves.

"We urge all farmers to be more security-conscious. Whenever possible, all vehicles should be locked and secured when parked, whatever the location and especially during the hours of darkness," said north Wales CLA regional secretary Judith Matthews.

&#8226 INDICATORS intended to measure the environmental performance of UK agriculture and its contribution to sustainable development have been issued by MAFF for industry consultation. Junior farm minister Elliot Morley said: "It is essential that we develop effective measures of sustainability for UK agriculture. I hope that the consultation paper will lead to a vigorous debate among interested parties."

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Archive Article: 1998/06/26

26 June 1998

IN BRIEF

&#8226 ANIMAL welfare campaigners converged on Westminster on Tuesday to send the message to parliament: "Times up for battery cages". Organised by Compassion in World Farming, the protesters called on farms minister Jack Cunningham to press his EU counterparts to agree a community-wide ban on battery cages.

&#8226 A FAIL-SAFE stunning monitor has been developed by the Meat and Livestock Commission which can tell slaughterhouse operators whether an animal has been stunned properly. Field trials are continuing and MLC hopes to market the device in the late summer.

&#8226 THE Scottish Wildlife Trust is calling on landowners within the Highland Perthshire, Upper Angus, Aberdeenshire, Tweedale and Midlothian regions to help identify areas rich in wildlife. The Trust hopes that farmers and landowners can help its team of eight professional biological surveyors during the summer in assessing the plant life in 130 sites in these regions.

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Archive Article: 1998/06/26

26 June 1998

IN BRIEF

uMILK quota transfer rules are tighter than some people realise, says Chris Collins, milk quota group manager for the Intervention Board. Those who acquire quota are forbidden not only from leasing or selling that quota for the remainder of the existing quota year and the one following it, but all other quota too, says Mr Collins. "This includes quota already held by the transferee."

uFRUIT growers in East Anglia have been awarded up to £700,000 under the Objective 5b capital grant scheme enabling them to supply and pack over 15,000t of apples and pears to supermarket standards. The central packhouse, run by seven of Wisbech-based Fruitlinks grower members, will benefit from an £80,000 investment in cool chain facilities. A further £666,750 is available to members to aid investments in stores, packhouses and grading equipment. Funds were secured by ADAS.

uAGRICULTURAL supply co-op ACT has announced a trading profit of £438,584 for the year ending Dec 31, 1997, a fall of 38% compared with 1996. Turnover fell 15% to just under £40m. Much of the difference is blamed on lower fertiliser prices; autumn prices were £25/t down year on year, says ACT. But feed tonnages rose 7%, forage sales climbed 10%, and sprays, silage additives and straight feeds also increased. Bonuses to farmer shareholders comprised a return of £4 per £1000 spent on ACT goods, and 6% interest on share capital. &#42

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Archive Article: 1998/06/26

26 June 1998

IN BRIEF

uPIG gross margins are at their lowest since 1994, reveals latest Signet figures. Data for the six months to March 1998 shows a margin of £20 a pig for farmers breeding and feeding stock to over 85kg lw. This marks a fall of £6 a pig on a year earlier, with the fall in feed costs insufficient to offset the lower slaughter values.

uMAY saw more store stock pass through Taunton market than in any other month for the last two years. The store cattle entry was up 40% on 1997. The trend continued into June, say the auctioneers, with June 13, for example, seeing 575 store cattle, 50 dairy cattle and 96 suckler cows among the entry.

uPLENTIFUL grass boosted demand at last weekends store cattle sale at Northampton, say the auctioneers. Charolais steers sold to £635, with Angus cross to £595. Among the heifers, highest price was £460. Among the breeding cattle, purebred Limousin cows with steer calves at foot sold to £830, with others close behind at £825 and £820.

uAFTER the closure of Banbury market, the British Charollais Sheep Society has switched its main summer show and sale to Lichfield Auction Centre run by auctioneers Bagshaws. The 300-400 rams on offer will be sold by three "invited" auctioneers – Brian Pile (Northampton), Paul Gentry (Newark) and William McCulloch (Lanark) on Sat, July 18.

uIN-CALF heifers made up most of the stock when Mrs Jackie Boucher staged the final part of her Sidhill Holstein Friesian herd dispersal at Brympton dEvercy, Somerset. Five lots made four figures peaking at 1280gns for a newly calved heifer by a home bred son of Brynhyfryd Cascade and offered with two-day-old twin heifer calves. The outfit went to Mr and Mrs Cole, Wells. Averages: Six calved heifers £941 and 49 in-calf heifers £769. (Greenslade Taylor Hunt.) &#42

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Archive Article: 1998/06/26

26 June 1998

DAVID RICHARDSON

Rain, rain go

away…as the rain and

uncertain weather

continue, this year

looks like a repeat

performance of 1997

I hope I am wrong, but summer 1998 seems to be turning out like summer 1997. And no one needs reminding what that did to crop yields and quality. With all the other problems, farming faces an expensive harvest would seem perverse. But we have even less chance of changing the weather than of changing government policy or the strength of sterling, so we will have to live with whatever comes.

As I write, on the longest day of the year, the sun is shining, the temperature is in the mid-70s and I wish I were outside instead of bashing this out on my word processor. But there was a little rain yesterday, a lot the day before, and weve had 4.5in during June so far. As I saw for myself last week we have been lucky to escape with that. Around Newcastle, average rainfall this month to date was nearer 7.5in. Water was standing in every tramline and lakes had formed in low places on every field.

Surprisingly I saw little lodging of cereals, although a lot of rape had gone down. Whether it was because northern farmers had used less nitrogen I cannot say. Perhaps they had decided to give new fungicides a miss.

I read unsubstantiated but worrying allegations by some agronomists that while strobilurins are excellent at controlling disease they appear to predispose crops to lodging. Or they may just have been lucky and missed the really heavy downpours. Whatever the reason most crops in the north were still upright.

The severest crop damage I saw on my travels was north of Cambridge and to a lesser extent south of Ipswich. Whole fields have gone down in places with only a few ears standing alongside tramlines. A difficult and expensive harvest is in prospect for the farmers involved. All of which means that my neighbours and myself should consider ourselves fortunate. Apart from the odd patch near a headland where a double application of fertiliser may have been applied our cereals are standing well. May they continue to do so until harvest.

Sugar beet, of course, has been loving the rain. After a slow start, in spite of generally early drilling in mid-March, most crops round here are now looking quite promising. The rule of thumb which we East Anglians use to judge prospects for our beet is as follows: If the leaves meet across the rows by the Suffolk Show (at the beginning of June) we expect bumper yields; if they do so by the Norfolk Show (next Wednesday and Thursday) yields will be average. Its all about percentage of leaf cover over the land before the hot dry days (we hope!) of July. But unscientific traditional judgments are usually pretty reliable. In any event the leaves of most East Anglian crops met by the middle of June so we can probably expect slightly above average yields.

In Yorkshire, where drilling was delayed by bad weather, many crops were not drilled until late April. They still have some growing to do to comply with my local standards and may not turn out as well. But perhaps Yorkshire growers judge their beet by the date of the Yorkshire Show. Doubtless someone will let me know.

Meanwhile, the biggest general problem with the crop this year seems to be weed beet. I for one am looking forward to the day when we can grow genetically modified sugar beet, spray them with either glyphosate or gluphosinate, and eliminate weed beet altogether. But GM beet is another story and one which may be receding into the future as, according to recent opinion polls, the British public are reluctant to accept GM foods in the near future.

There was a forecast of serious aphid and by implication, virus yellows problems this year which has, so far failed to fully materialise. One reason is the increasing use of insecticide-treated seed which gives protection through the spring. Another is the cool conditions so far in June. As, and if, temperatures begin to rise for more than a day or two at a time we will have to be ready to spray. But once roots have reached the size they have now, aphid attack is less damaging than when crops are at the seedling stage. So, perhaps we will be able to save an input cost.

Meanwhile my main preoccupation at present is whether to cut 8ha (20 acres) of hay. Its plenty late enough already, of course, but with no weather forecast promising more than two days of fine weather in succession we have delayed and delayed. A neighbour decided to risk cutting a small field more than a month ago and in spite of turning it each time the sun peeped from behind a cloud and even attempting to bale it once – he did one bale before aborting the job – the swathes are still lying on the field looking blacker each day.

So, Im looking for a fine long-term forecast – for the hay, for the rest of the farm and for the Norfolk Show. Weve had enough rain in Norfolk until harvest.

But we have even less chance of

changing the weather than of changing government policy or the strength of sterling…

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Archive Article: 1998/06/26

26 June 1998

FARMERFOCUS

Kevin Littleboy

Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha

(600 acres) as Howe

Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N

Yorks. The medium sandy

loam in the Vale of York

supports potatoes, winter

wheat, rape and barley, plus

grass for sheep

WASNT the national cereals event scintillating? I now know how many aircraft there are at RAF Cranwell, what a ministry weighbridge centre looks like, how to build a by-pass, how many white lines there are in a mile of dual carriageway, and how many stone chips/sq m of tarmac.

After queuing for two and three-quarter hours I finally arrived with little time to see all the plots and stands. We really caused a major PR disaster with the general public, from holiday makers to goods lorries snarled up in the queue and radio messages every half hour blaming us.

I sincerely hope that traffic management and common sense next year will improve.

There have been numerous vitriolic attacks and much compassionate pleading against farm assurance schemes in the press. While I am the first to agree that improvements are needed and a single whole farm assurance scheme is more than desirable, may I say to those who do not or will not join – please stay out for as long as you can.

I have now been checked for a total of three assurance schemes and have and will market my produce accordingly.

There are certainly improvements to be made on the farm, but they will be in place by harvest. The reality is that we are in a buyers not a sellers market and we all know that the schemes are not price proof.

As a scheme member, I hope to gain a marketing advantage, not a price edge, and that is exactly what I have achieved in all three – potatoes, wheat and lamb. Thank you to my customers, but once there is 100% take-up I and others will not have this short-term benefit.

With the present weather pattern I am glad I used the new strobilurins because the wheat is looking very clean for the disease pressure we have endured. We will be on again with an azole for the ear wash. Blight spraying has also started on the potatoes, but travelling is a challenge.

Dennis Ford

Dennis Ford farms 384ha

(950 acres) from Home

Farm, Hinton Parva,

Swindon, Wilts. One-third is

owned, two-thirds tenanted

and a small area contract

farmed. Cropping is winter

wheat, barley, rape and

beans, plus spring rape,

linseed and flax

HAVING been lucky enough to have been away on holiday, I am presently looking out of my window as the heavens open.

The weather pattern seems to resemble last years, with a mostly dry May, followed by a grey, wet, dreary June. We have, however, been able to catch up with the spraying and top dressing.

Our first wheats, Buster, are showing signs of brown rust. While I was away, Chris managed to spray them with a mixture of Ensign (krezoxim-methyl) and tebuconazole at 0.5 and 0.25litres/ha. The second wheats had the same plus Aura (fenpropimorph) at 0.15litres/ha. We shall have to wait to see how well this will work with all this wet weather.

Milling wheats have received 43kg/ha (34.5 unit/acre) of nitrogen hopefully to improve the protein content. The rain will help to wash the N into the ground.

Winter barley has received Tilt (propiconazole) with Aura at 0.25litres/ha each. So far we have not had any significant storm damage to worry us, apart from on spreader overlaps.

Optic spring barley has had the same treatment but with the addition of MBC at the same rate. It looks very well with no significant disease or major storm damage.

Laura spring flax is up and away along with chickweed, other general weeds and volunteer potatoes. One field has been treated with Ally (metsulfuron-methyl) at 30g/ha, the other with a Basagran (bentazone)/Vindex (bromoxynil + clopyralid) mixture. Both have had 88kg/ha (70 units/acre) of N.

Liga spring oilseed rape had to have cypermethrin for flea beetle. The split germination caused by the earlier dry weather means we have some plants way ahead of others. But hopefully the similar dose of N it has had will eventually even it up.

On a personal note, congratulations to a good friend, Helen Browning, on her recent award of the OBE. Thanks for the party.

Despite a wet June, Dennis Ford is up-to-date with spraying and spreading, but his spring rape is somewhat uneven.

Teddy Maufe

Teddy Maufe farms 407ha

(1000 acres) as the tenant of Branthill Farm, part of

the Holkham Estate, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. Sugar

beet lies at the heart of the

rotation, with other crops

including winter barley,

wheat and oats, spring

barley and triticale

JUNE, like last year, has been very wet and cool so far. We recorded 85mm (3.3in) of rain by June 18.

In the occasional dry spells we put an ear-wash of 0.3litres/ha of Amistar (azoxystrobin) on the wheat.

The farm has had two inspections – firstly a random MAAF check on our setaside and cereal areas. By our latest official maps they were correct but MAAF is instructed to re-check about 30% of the field areas.

Hardly any of them agreed exactly, though the differences were mostly minute. But even so my new IACS farm map needs a lot of alterations. As some fields corrected were only revised by an official cartographer as recently as 1992, my faith in maps is a little bruised!

The ACCS verifier found small items we will have to record. They are mostly things we already do as standard practice but never bother to log officially, like cleaning trailers pre-harvest.

I know the scheme has suffered much bad press recently. But if your main crop is malting barley and the trade is increasingly in favour of it there is not much option.

Talking of maltsters, it is high time they and the brewers declared their hand before the autumn over exactly which varieties they will require next year. I have never been so unsure as to which varieties have genuine markets and premiums going for them. I explained my predicament to a maltster on the IOB stand at Cereals 98 and told him the ball was in his court to sort out this confusion.

Halcyons market price 10 years ago was £140/t when beer was £1 a pint. Now beer is about £2 a pint the malting barley trade is reluctant to pay £100/t.

It also strikes me as very one-sided that we have to declare every single input to our barley. But have you ever seen a full list of ingredients on a bottle of beer?

Teddy Maufes ACCS inspection threw up few problems, but malting barley variety choice for next season is giving him quite a headache.

James Hosking

James Hosking farms 516ha

(1275 acres) with his

parents and brother at

Fentongollan, Tresillian,

Truro, Cornwall. Land is

equally split between share

farming, various FBTs and a

tenancy. Crops include

wheat, oats, barley and

daffodils, alongside sheep

and cattle enterprises

THE past month for us has really been a period of growing. Despite the weather all the crops are looking very good.

We drilled the wheat at 350 seeds/sq m, which has resulted in ear counts of about 550 ears/sq m, which should be quite adequate for a decent crop. The chlormequat applied in the spring seems to have done its job. The winter cereals are still standing with the exception of a few small areas.

We applied 0.25litres/ha of Opus (epoxiconazole) as an ear wash to the wheats, which following two applications of Mantra (kresoxim-methyl, epoxiconazole and fenpropimorph) will hopefully keep them clean until harvest. These fungicides do seem to have done a very good job despite the high levels of septoria we started with back in the spring.

We have just applied a late spray of Alto (cyproconazole) to the winter oats at 0.5litres/ha. Some crown rust has been creeping into them, which we want to stop. If it gets onto the panicles it can affect the bushel weight.

The daffodil bulb harvest is about to start. We are in the process of desiccating off the ridges, and inter-row cultivating to break the ground up as much as possible. The bulbs are lifted onto the surface to dry in windrows with a modified potato destoner. They are then picked up by casual labour gangs and brought in for processing.

Having cleared a backlog of work from my desk, I am getting nearer the Assured Combinable Crops registration pack sitting at the bottom of my in-tray. I can understand the reasons why we have been forced into a position where we need a scheme such as this, and I shall register.

However, because the farm has several enterprises which require assurance schemes, I am very apprehensive about the extra workload and costs (including all the subscriptions) they are going impose for no real benefit.

Daffodil bulb lifting after desiccation is just beginning at Fentongollan where James Hosking is also about to tackle ACCSregistration.

Kevin Littleboy is annoyed that poor access, leading to extensive traffic jams, prevented him seeing more of Cereals 98 than he had hoped.

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Archive Article: 1998/06/26

26 June 1998

There are generally two ways of doing any simple farm job – the right way and the way youve always done it. If the two are one and the same thing, bully for you. If, on the other hand, you have the sneaking suspicion that the way you have done a particular task for aeons is not the quickest, cleanest or most effective, you are probably in good company.

Take hand sharpening of drill bits. Very few of us are formally trained in such things, yet the difference between a properly-sharpened bit and one that is sort of adequately sharpened is huge. We went to a man who knows how to do it and got him to pass on the fruits of his experience.

We have also thrown some light on an area that few people fully understand – patents – by talking to the patent experts and farmers who have been down the patenting path.

We explain what is involved, what the process costs and what degree of protection you will get.

So, if you have designed something in the farm workshop that you think could have commercial potential, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.

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