17 May 1996

Cereal starch – new outlets

By Amanda Dunn

A SHROPSHIRE farm has produced what is believed to be a record crop of timothy grass seed.

After cleaning and processing, a total of 450kg/ha (9cwt/acre) of seed quality Promesse was turned out by Elwyn and Margaret Jones, of The Haim, Llandrinio. The crop was grown on contract for seed merchant Ridleys Seeds.

"The yield was exceptional, almost double the average one would expect for this variety, with good germination (96%) and purity standards (99.85%) also achieved," explains Eddie Budd, senior technical officer of the seed production department at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany.

Mr and Mrs Jones have produced grass seed at their 100ha (250-acre) farm for more than 50 years. The medium loam, grade two land is on the Shropshire/Powys border.

The 4.45ha (11-acre) field, originally sown in 1990 at 3.5kg/ha, received no special attention. However Chris Hoff, managing director of Ridleys Seeds, believes the Jones care and professional approach to seed production largely contributed to the yield.

Their husbandry includes using lambs to graze off late summer growth before applying autumn weed control. "We use a mixture of TCA (3kg/ha) and Nortron (3 litres/ha) for meadow grass and other weeds," explains Mr Jones. Treatment timing gets particular attention. The chemical approach is complemented by hand weeding in the spring to remove rogues.

While good husbandry and careful management of the crop is important, Mr Jones believes the extraordinary harvesting conditions last year mainly account for the impressive output.

"We use the traditional method of swathing and wilting, prior to threshing." He believes this offers more control over the harvesting process than direct combining.

The crop was swathed at the end of the first week of August, wilted for 14 days and then combined at 20% moisture.

Combine setup and timing of threshing is crucial to maximise the amount of seed gathered, he adds. "Its always something of a compromise, as you can never be sure of getting the whole seed head.

"This time we swathed a little earlier than usual, sacrificing the seed that is lower in the head rather than losing the higher seed through over-maturity. It seems to have worked, looking at the yield we achieved."