16 March 2001

Fieldwork faces disruption from foot-and-mouth

FOOT-AND-MOUTH is set to bring serious disruption to arable field-work, which was on hold only because of wet weather this week.

Confirmed foot-and-mouth near Littlecote Farm Partners, Hungerford, Berks could mean work on 35-40% of the 4450ha (11,000-acre), contract-farmed, all-arable unit will be impossible under schedule D restrictions, estimates manager Jonathan Holland.

"We have been told we are not allowed to move any products, seed or fertiliser, by public road in affected areas. We cant move seed across a road even if it is in the drill."

Biggest uncertainty is judging how long the restrictions may last, he says. Spring barley and beans still await sowing.

Even in the absence of foot-and-mouth on 16,200ha (40,000 acres) run by Sentry Farming, hygiene precautions are bound to slow field operations, says the companys Roger Connah.

Complacency among delivery drivers is the biggest threat and the UKs precautions are in stark contrast to those in Ireland, he adds. "In Dublin every public building, most hotels and even pubs have disinfectant mats down."

Agronomy has become an absolute nightmare, says Ross-on-Wye, Glos arable farmer Ben Davies, who also advises in Oxfordshire. "I field walk 29 farms and am only allowed on two. With the poor autumn very little chemical went on. The real problems will come in two or three weeks time when T1 fungicides and growth regs are due." &#42