2 November 2001

Crops off to cracking start

By Andrew Swallow

REGULAR rain and warm weather has seen arable crops established by farmers weeklys western barometer farmer get off to a cracking start.

But they need to if contract farming agreements are to be worth the extra work, says Tim Morris (see panel).

"Drilling has gone brilliantly. We just havent had the bad weather that others further east have had."

Winter wheat on both contract farms was drilled Sept 11-14 with Secur (imadacloprid) dressed Claire at 200 seeds/sq m. "We had superb seed-beds ready and waiting which really shows the benefit of the 50/50 set-aside system."

On his own land at Coneygar Farm, near Cirencester, Glos, drilling started Sept 18, finishing Sept 29, and late last week second round herbicide applications were almost complete.

Everything had 1.7 litres/ha of trifluralin as a blackgrass sensitising pre-emergence spray with 2 litres/ha of ipu added where meadow grasses were a problem.

"I have been disappointed with Avadex – it is a pain to apply, leaves extra wheel marks and adds a contractor cost. Besides, its not good enough on the wild oats that you do not need to come back."

Lexus DF (flupyrsulfuron-methyl) at 20g/ha plus 2-2.5 litres/ha of Stomp (pendimethalin) is being used as a follow-up, without oil due to the lush, soft crop conditions but with cypermethrin, or Sumi-alpha (esfenvalerate) in earlier applications, for aphids.

"On the worst blackgrass/wild oat fields a Hawk follow-up is probable in the spring."

Oilseed rape is off to a good start too, so much so that NPK compound intended for autumn application will be held back to spring. "I do not want the crop above my knees before Christmas," says Mr Morris.

A four-way tank-mix of Plover (difenconazole), carbendazim, Fastac (alpha-cypermethrin) and Falcon (propaquizafop) has gone onto oilseed rape, the Falcon being a second 0.2 litres/ha application.

"The second dose was questionable, with spring barley volunteers being much less competitive. But there is still the sterile brome and wild oats to take care of."

Contract farming

Disappointing harvest results have left Mr Morris wondering whether expansion through contract farming agreements 12 months ago was a wise move. "My prediction that I could end up being a busy fool has been fairly well realised," he admits. Lack of drying for the 160ha (400 acres) of wheat on the two farms taken on was a major worry all season and resulted in a big increase in his costs come harvest. Contract combines, hired in to take crop when the sun was shining and it was dry, cost £8000. "I am not trying to get out of the deals but it was a poor harvest and we didnt get the bonuses based on yields we had hoped for. On one farm there were none. Of course next year is going to be a brilliant harvest!"

Kind weather has helped get next years crops off to a cracking start at Coneygar Farm and on contract land, says west barometer grower Tim Morris.