7 June 1996

Helping hand is big plus in quality drive

Tony Bradley is pleased with the guidance he gets through soil mineral N testing, and welcomes AICC advice on chemical matters.

FOR Tony Bradley, manager at Southley Farm, Overton, Hants, the crop protection advice he gets from AICC member Diana Nettleton is a big plus in his drive for clean, high quality crops.

Average malting yield on the thin Andover series soil over chalk is not high – about 5t/ha (2t/acre) – so premium-earners are vital for good gross margins on the 2000ha (4950-acre) estate. Last years winter barleys averaged £142/t. "The springs made £159/t."

With only four seasons at Southley, after a spell managing light, drought-prone gravels in the Thames Valley, Mr Bradley admits to needing a helping hand. Input decisions are very much a case of teamwork, he explains. Ms Nettletons extensive database has a strong influence on chemical choice and product rates. "It is still a steep learning curve for me.

"We are not aiming for the ultra low Ns. We stick to traditionally what the farm has consistently produced." For the past three seasons nitrogens have averaged about 1.75%.

Post winter soil nitrogen testing to help fine tune spring N dressings has been the main technical advance, he believes. "This is our third year with it." Following guidance from Andover-based Soil Services results have been particularly encouraging. "We have achieved the same yield with less N, so I have a tremendous amount of faith in it."

A 4m (13ft) Vaderstad drill replacing a much slower power-harrow combination unit has been another useful step forward, says Mr Bradley. "Our seed-beds have improved and the crop is much more even when it comes up."

Good establishment is one of the keys to making the most of subsequent inputs, he explains. "We like our winter barley to go into the winter with the rows looking like bushy hedgerows and disease free. We certainly apply one or two aphicides in the autumn, but hopefully, if we use the right seed dressing, we dont need to use any fungicide."

Yield and in-built disease resistance are the characteristics Mr Bradley hopes breeders will concentrate on most in the future. Puffin has been grown in the past but failed to perform on the farm, hence the return to Pipkin, this years competition entry, he says.

Fanfare, with its breeders emphasis on close links with maltsters, has a good future. "It looks fairly exciting," he reckons. &#42