James Hosking farms 516ha
(1275 acres) with his
parents and brother at
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 has been busy, and for once the weather has been kind to us.
We are up to date on arable work, at last, with the last field of winter wheat drilled at the end of January and herbicides applied. It was a great relief to get the ipu plus Panther (ipu + dff) tank-mix on to wheats and barleys as the chemical had been sitting in store since November. We are currently applying the compound fertiliser and 40 kg/ha (32 units/acre) of nitrogen to the cereals. Then we will start on the grass.
Daffodil picking has been full steam ahead and we are now through the majority of the crop. The cooler temperatures through February slowed flower growth and allowed us to keep on top of the picking. If the weather gets too mild at the wrong time we cant pick fast enough. A field of daffodils in full bloom looks very pretty for the local public, but we would much rather have sold them!
The price for the flowers is another matter. It seems too many daffodils are grown in Cornwall and the Channel Islands, over-supplying the market.
My brother has had a busy month filling the module tunnels with cauliflower, cabbage and calabrese plants for summer cutting programmes and we are about to start drawing the first of our 1600 fat lambs. The current price at £2.80/kg deadweight is a lot better than we feared it might be.
Our local authority has just announced that it is considering banning GM foods from schools and care homes until they are proved safe. The problem seems to me to be that people are worried by the new technology, and that is compounded by the way the media report it to make it newsworthy. Unfortunately, following the BSE crisis, we have all learnt not to trust reassurances of the politicians and are wary of scientists who seem to have a multitude of different vested interests. *
Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha
(600 acres) as Howe
Estates at Howe, Thirsk,
North Yorks. The medium
sandy loam in the Vale of
York supports potatoes,
winter wheat, rape and
barley, plus grass for sheep
WINDS gusting 100mph dried our waterlogged fields a treat, but I dare say the eleven lorry drivers whose vehicles were blown over on the nearby A1 were less enthusiastic. I nearly became a casualty of the conditions too, not due to the winds but because I was gawping over the hedge at a tractor spreading fertiliser across 900 metres in one pass. Must be a new design of spreader!
Drilling winter wheat is at last finished with Claire and Abbott going in on last years potato land. I couldnt get hold of any spring wheat so now I am praying for enough cold weather to con the seed into thinking its winter. Whether this was a good decision or a disaster only time will tell. Autumn herbicide sprays were completed on Feb 6; the first dry, calm, frost-free day since November.
Recently I visited the new Central Science Laboratory near York. After all the cuts in research we hear about, I for one came away incredibly impressed by the £33.7m worth of work done there on everybodys behalf.
The Food Science Laboratory moves there this year too, and the exchange of ideas and interaction of different research projects carried out under one roof can only be of benefit. While the CSLs prime aim is to provide MAFF with scientific services, funding also comes from other government departments, levy bodies, the European Union and the private sector.
One example of the excellent work is alternative crops. Once only pipe dreams, some are now credible and worthwhile income earners, grown by farmers and sold to meet real market needs. I recommend a visit to CSL for all, even if it is only to their website: www.csl.gov.uk or for alternative crop information: www.csl.gov.uk/ienica
Now I am off to drill my cannabis – sorry, I mean hemp. And it hasnt rained for three days so I had better service the irrigators, or is that rain on the window? *
Teddy Maufe farms 407ha
(1000 acres) as the tenant of Branthill Farm, part of
the Holkham Estate,
Sugar beet lies at the heart
of the rotation, with other
crops including winter
barley,wheat and oats,
spring barley and triticale
WE are striving to catch up with our work schedule whenever the land is dry enough to venture onto it. The last of our heavier land for this seasons sugar beet was at last ploughed in mid February – some two months later than usual and leaving little time for a frost tilth.
Optic spring barley drilling behind sugar beet started on Feb 2. A Terra-disc in front of the plough levelled the worst of the ruts left from the beet trailers and in one good week we planted half the 80ha (200 acres) before snow stopped play. The job was finished on Feb 24 and it is a relief to have it all in.
We carted in our last load of sugar beet two days before the factory closed. The clamped beet were in good condition helped by low bruising levels from the TIM harvester. Final results for the campaign are: clean yield 59.6 t/ha (24 t/acre), adjusted yield 65.2 t/ha (26.4 tons/acre), top tare 6.4%, dirt tare 6.4%, amino nitrogen 107, sugar 17.1%.
That is a farm record, surpassing even last year, so again we are slightly trimming back our acreage. But not too much as a summer drought can seriously undermine our yields here. However, I think that the August applied Alto (cyproconazole) has been a significant factor in increasing our yields, keeping the crop canopy healthy and thus extending the growing season.
Our bank manager has just made his annual visit. An increasing overdraft appears an inescapable factor based on our cash flow projections for this year, even with the farm producing bounteous yields. We continue to try to drive down variable costs where possible, and fixed costs too have been trimmed. But as a tenant some are beyond my control.
Finally, a plug for Shuttleworth College Association. I must urge former students to return registration forms as soon as possible or, sadly, this institution will join the growing number of such organisations that have folded. *
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
TALKING with some hockey and farming friends from Cheltenham I was quite surprised to hear their stories about excellent yields last year. Having moved all of our feed wheat we now know how well we did, or rather didnt, do.
Our average yield was only 6.7t/ha (2.7t/acre), which is not good but better than I feared. Brown rust on Buster was mainly to blame, as we were unable to spray because of the weather at the time. What is a pleasant surprise is the fact that the vast majority of the tonnage went off the farm above 72 kg/hl. Now for the milling wheat which is still in store.
Field work started briefly in mid February, but has ground to a halt again. We put 56kg/ha (70 units/acre) of nitrogen on oilseed rape but have had to sit and wait since then. At the end of last week things were starting to dry a little but weekend rain could change all that.
Taking a look at the worst wheats I noticed there are many patches in the middle of the field which the slugs have eaten. But they are not all in one part of the field, so it is difficult to decide whether or not to re-drill. At present it is too wet to do anything, so we have a bit of time to sit on the fence before making a decision. But if we do decide to replace any patches, the chances are it will be with linseed. That, of course, can be done quite late in the season, buying even more time to fully appraise the crop, or lack of it, before admitting defeat to the slugs.
Away from the farm, the dismantling of the earthworks sheds continues. The roof sections are down and back at the farm, but a crane will have to be hired to lower the RSJs to the ground and complete the exercise. *