All over bar the shouting
APOLOGIES to our Gallic readers, but history repeatedly proves the truth of the bon mot: the French are always revolting…
And sure enough, the Agenda 2000 talks kicked off with a bang in Brussels, courtesy of coach loads of voluble, excitable French farmers, who arrived to demonstrate. There were a few British faces too.
Water cannons, whistles, fire crackers, burning tyres, rotten eggs – you name it; all the paraphernalia required to set the scene for the modern demo.
Not surprisingly, the mood inside the meeting room was equally belligerent, and the talks broke down in deadlock after a clash between the French and German contingent.
By the time Crops arrives on your doorstep, it may be that an agreement has been reached. We must hope so. The Agenda 2000 reform is vital for the industry. If we cannot come to a consensus as to how costs will be contained, Europes farm businesses will be heading down the road to nowhere.
It is the farm ministers duty to hammer out a deal. If they dont, then they are failing in their responsibility towards Europe, and should consider resignation. A delay to CAP reform will only prolong the agony – and the decision will then pass to the heads of state, when they next meet on 24 March in Germany. If the farm ministers cant come up with their own solution, they will have one imposed from above.
Change is inevitable – and it will be painful. But the longer we wait, the worse the medicine might be.
OSR feels the squeeze
IT SAYS a lot for how valuable oilseed rape is as a break crop in UK rotations. Even with those swingeing area aid cuts and the dramatic fall in prices, growers are expected to stay with the crop (see page 26).
But is their loyalty going to be stretched just too far this year? The rape market has now slipped to £110-130/t. These are the lowest prices since 1992 when the old subsidy system was first removed.
If youre paying out for more expensive hybrid seed this season, its gloomy news. As the crop value shrinks, the cash benefit of that extra yield follows suit. Calculations by one seed company – which admittedly is putting the case for a conventional variety rather than a hybrid one – put the break even point at a rape price of £100/t. The spot market is not there yet, but new crop prices are coming frighteningly close.
Why is the rape market crashing? The problem is simple: over-supply. The USDA is predicting another record global oilseed crop for 1999, with production in Argentina and Brazil up significantly. Soya leads the way, and other oilseeds tag along behind.
In the long term, the depressed market must reduce the area down to soya, but for now theres no light at the end of the tunnel. No market analysts are brave enough to predict an upturn.
Can oilseed rape hang on in the face of this pressure?
N – at your
LETS not be coy about this. Did you use the loo this morning? Or were you caught short somewhere out in the field?
Most of us will have used our domestic facilities, but perhaps this is not such a good idea. We are all guilty, it seems, of wasting a precious nutrient resource and flushing it away to a sewage treatment plant. Instead it could be a high nitrogen, low phosphorus fertiliser. And a group of Aussie and Swedish scientists have come up with a solution to separate the urine from our waste.
Its a dual toilet, with two chambers. One is for collecting urine (and just dont ask about the other). Water is added to the urine, and it is then sprayed onto the land using existing irrigation systems. The contents of the other chamber is composted in special bins. Without the urine, the composting process is rapid and the resulting matter can be used as a soil improver.
Extensive testing of the environmental health aspects of this research has shown the hygiene risks are – apparently – minimal. What our supermarket buyers would think is another matter…
According to one of the scientists involved, this dual toilet could be "an important effluent management option for new housing developments outside major cities, or in the eco-villages of the future."
In an interesting footnote to this research, the average Aussie (is that with or without the beer consumption?) generates about 500 litres/year of urine. Thats between 5-10 billion litres for the whole country. Just dont get caught under those irrigators….
No beans in beans
LIKE bangers and mash, or fish and chips, theyre peculiarly British. And like these homely favourites, the winter bean crop doesnt travel well. They are only grown in the UK.
Winter beans suit our arable rotations, they can turn in a reasonably respectable yield (when the weathers on their side) and they are a cheap, no-fuss crop to grow.
But, for a plant breeder, they are the closest thing to a dead duck. Theres not much money, if any, to be made from winter beans. It doesnt help that most growers save their own seed.
So the news that PBI Cambridge is to abandon their winter bean programme is not that surprising. Perhaps its new master, Monsanto, has been cracking the whip.
But it is sad news. Heres why. All the varieties on the Recommended List for winter beans come from PBI Cambridge. It is the only breeder involved in this crop.
The company has stated its intention to continue with varieties in the pipeline – which should keep winter bean growers supplied with new material for a few years. And it will maintain the varieties already around. But at some point, winter bean development must come to a grinding halt without any breeding input.
Thats unless anyone takes over the mantle as sole breeder for this crop. Given that bean breeding has verged on charitable status over the past few years, the price tag for adopting PBI Cambridges programme should surely be insignificant.
So, any takers? It might even be a canny, rather than a kind gesture. After all, the humble bean has escaped the attention of the GM scientists – could it play a role as a guaranteed non GM protein feed source?
Paris SIMA reflects the weather
IT may have been Paris but English weather was very much on the minds of growers attending the SIMA machinery show. Memories of the struggle to get on with spring work last year and the muddy mess that harvest became over much of Continental Europe found echoes on a number of show stands.
There was serious interest in anything that sported tracks or flotation tyres, from the British-built Diablo ATV by Gifford Langley, from Crewe, Cheshire, through to the enormous Matrot and Ropa sugar beet tank harvesters with crab tracking.
Between these two extremes there lay the tracked platform transporters from companies such as Transmanut with its Perkins-engined Transporter 180/50 with a £25,000 price tag, or TSIs Eurotrack with a choice of more powerful Iveco engines from £22,000.
Both had been kitted out for serious top dressing work; the Eurotrack with an Amazone fertiliser spreader which could be quickly refilled from big bags using an on-board crane and a demount system lowering the spreader unit to the ground. Although shown with a Sulky spreader, Transmanuts machine can – if you really want it to – traverse the wettest of fields carrying a drill, sprayer or just about anything else attachable to its three-point linkage.
However, it was harvest 1998 that gave French, German and Italian growers the greatest grief. The Grecav Group, from Italy, had recognised that and brought along their rubber track fittings for combines and tractors. About £3,000 will set up your Claas, Deutz, Case or Massey combine for the paddy fields of Suffolk this summer.