1 November 1996

…but SW grower has reservations

CUTTING the number of passes needed to grow wheat should ease pressure on Andrew Hebditch of EWH Farms, Somerset, FWs 1996 south-western barometer grower.

His expanding 290ha (720 acres) all-arable unit is centred on Martock, but working it involves trips of up to 14 miles to the furthest fields.

By his own admission fairly relaxed about his contribution to HGCA-funded R&D, Mr Heb- ditch welcomed Mr Pooles presentation with some reservations.

"Its interesting work but I question whether it is viable in our situation. I dont believe each pass is costing us £5/ha."

Mr Hebditch, who currently goes through his wheats several times in the spring, also questioned the logistics, though not necessarily the husbandry aspects, of putting all his nitrogen on in one pass. "If we had to use 3-4cwt/acre in one go, transporting it about could be difficult. We dont have any storage off the farm."

Mr Poole acknowledged that the reduced pass concept is probably more suited to first wheats which require less N than continuous cropping. Some of the trials used only 120kg/ha (96 units/acre).

Listening in was Arthur Hulls, Taunton-based member of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants and Mr Hebditchs agronomist. "Its heartening to know that somebody is doing this sort of work. Well need it especially as the grain price falls and with variable costs going up."

His main concern was that such trials should be continued to give growers confidence in the results. "We need to have data from more years."

Adding a local trial site to accommodate the earlier growth patterns of the south-west would be a useful move, he suggested.

MIN Pass husbandry

&#8226 Can be as profitable as conventional strategy.

&#8226 Later sown disease resistant wheats more suitable.

&#8226 More successful on fertile soils.

&#8226 More successful where total N dressing is lower.

&#8226 Performs better in dry regions where septoria threat lower.

&#8226 Must be adjusted if aphids present.