14 March 2001
Foot-and-mouth hampers arable farms

By Charles Abel and Andrew Blake

ARABLE farmers face serious disruption to fieldwork as the foot-and-mouth crisis intensifies.

Drilling is being hampered by disease restrictions preventing the movement of any products, seed or fertiliser by public road in affected areas.

Uncertainty over how long the epidemic will last adds to worries, while agromomists are finding the restrictions are severely curtailing their activities.

They warn that the situation will worsen in the next two or three weeks time when early fungicides and growth regulators are due to be applied.

Work already held up by wet weather faces serious delays because of confirmed foot-and-mouth near Littlecote Farm Partners, Hungerford, Berkshire.

Manager Jonathan Holland estimates that work on 35-40% of the 4450ha (11,000 acre) contract-farmed all-arable unit will be impossible under restrictions.

First top-dressing has been done, and most herbicide treatments are up to date, but spring barley and beans await sowing.

“Weve been told we are not allowed to move any products, seed or fertiliser, by public road in affected areas,” said Mr Holland.

“We cant move seed across a road even if it is in the drill.”

Mr Holland says the biggest uncertainty is judging how long the outbreak will last, while he has also to contend with public perception.

“The farms fully-mounted sprayer is a familiar sight in Hungerford. But would it really look right for us to be taking it up the high street now?

“Foot-and-mouth is predominantly a livestock problem, but its also affecting other sectors without a doubt,” added Mr Holland.

Operations at Ben Davies all-arable farm near Ross-on-Wye have not so far been affected by foot-and-mouth, but advisory work in Oxfordshire has been hit.

“Agronomy has become an absolute nightmare. I field-walk 29 farms and am only allowed on two, my own and one other all-arable.

“And even when I am out there, I get funny looks from people who probably wonder what I am doing,” said Mr Davies.

“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 regulators are due.”

While directly unaffected, Aubourn Farming in Lincolnshire is having trouble getting agronomic advice out to farms, says managing director Philip Wynn.

“I have nine agronomists covering 120,000 acres. It is especially difficult in the Midlands where there are more mixed farms.

“We held off for a week and now only go on with clients permission and under very tight protocols.”

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage
Advice to contractors from NAAC