28 May 1999

TACKLE SHOPPING LISTS

IN THE REGIONS

A tour of shiny machinery at

agricultural shows is always

tempting. Andrew Blake

asked farmers weeklys

barometer farmers what

they wish they could afford,

what they may consider and

what they are likely to buy

SOUTH-WEST

RESTRONGUET Farms 1000t of grain storage and drying facilities leave a lot to be desired, say the Dale brothers in Cornwall.

"If money were no object we would knock the whole lot down and rebuild," says Matthew. The addition of a good general-purpose store would offer flexibility to do more contract drying and cleaning. "We did about 100t of linseed last year.

"In reality we are looking for a half decent pre-cleaner and a drier to replace our two noisy, dirty and quite labour intensive mobile driers which only do about 6t/hour. We could do with something, probably tidy second-hand, that will handle 10-15."

The recent swap of two smaller tractors for one large one (Arable, Apr 9) means the main field requirement is a new plough, possibly with hydraulic vari-width, to replace the seven-year-old five-furrow Rabe reversible. "We have a lot of small fields," says Paul. "That means a lot of lifting on headlands which takes its toll in wear and tear." A six-furrow model is out of the question. "It could turn the tractor over on our steep ground."

Minimal cultivation appears attractive. "But I am a bit worried about disease with our mild winters, and besides we would be looking at £20,000 compared with £6000 for a plough."

"With grain at £75/t it is certainly not the time to be buying machinery," adds Matthew.

SOUTH

WITH an estimated £5000+ bill to replace a worn-out angleveyor with an elevator and horizontal conveyor in the grain store, John Chalcraft does not expect to have much spare cash for other machinery at New Farm, Hants this year.

"It has been forced on us because we have all bin storage and the thing kept breaking.

"The question is whether we can afford a new slug pellet applicator let alone a new tractor." Last autumn he managed by borrowing a neighbours equipment. "But I am not sure we got the pellets on as quickly as we should.

"So we are looking to buy our own kit, but maybe just an applicator and putting it on a friends ATV."

The main tractor, a John Deere 6900, is due for replacement soon. "We try to change about every three years. But I shall probably want something with the facility to lift a 4m combination drill rather than the 3m Greenland one we have at the moment. It sounds obvious, but going to a 24m system would give us much more output, though we probably shant change for a year or two. The sprayer is easily modified to suit, I already have the bolt-on boom sections."

EAST

AN automatic junk mail sorter is one of Norfolk farmer Robert Salmons more flippant desires.

Another wish is a moisture meter automatically calibrated to a national standard used by all buyers.

Practically he is keen to examine practical options surrounding soil texture and structure maps of Hyde Hall. "I do not believe that yield maps are the place to begin precision farming. The single item that remains constant from year to year is the potential of the soil. Varying seed rate and fertiliser usage could have a significant influence on profitability.

"I need a simple, economic way to file local knowledge, experience and information from old maps in a computer and subsequently use it to control machinery."

Maps produced by soil sampling on 1ha (2.5-acre) squares are clearly inadequate for determining soil type boundaries, he says.

Spraying dominates Mr Salmons other machinery enquiries. "With pressure to reduce sprayer rinsing volumes increasing, it will be interesting to see how direct injection technology can help.

"Will closed chemical transfer systems ever be practical? What about generic chemicals?"

Chemical induction hoppers have clearly caught on. "But do I have to import a Granni-Pot, with Jacuzzi-like jets in the bottom, from Australia to get the best there is?"

WEST

SOPHISTICATED GPS technology is unlikely to persuade Shropshire farmer Andrew Cooke to open his cheque book.

"When I do all the fertiliser spreading, spraying and combining I know where the yield is coming from. I do not need a satellite to tell me."

Novel tackle has a place at North Farm, but never on a like-for-like basis. "I believe that when you replace a machine it must be a big improvement, such as going from 12 to 18m. But this does not always mean buying new.

"All our harvesting equipment is bought second-hand at a fraction of the cost of new and we have no wish to change at the moment."

He is keen to see what is on offer for reduced tillage drilling. "It would be great to be able to sow as fast as we can roll. And we are looking for a 6m drill, probably second-hand, just to speed things up."

But a full switch to a no-till machine is unlikely. "It is early days. I have seen plenty working in Australia, but that is not Shropshire, and I certainly do not want Australian yields."

Front linkage tackle performing as claimed to make the most of the farms two JCB tractors would be another useful find. "And it would be good to have a second irrigation reel to make life easier."

MIDLANDS

SOME form of precision sowing to improve results from early autumn drilling is a key area of interest for Tony Wright at Elms Farm, Caythorpe, Lincs.

"It is still in the experimental stage, but I am sure we need better spacing with the lower seed rates we are using. Our conventional drill tends to sow in bunches."

At a more mundane level budgeted changes include replacing a 100hp John Deere tractor with a 120hp model and perhaps substituting the Teleporter. "But we are actually going to buy very little. It is difficult to justify anything under present circumstances.

"The Teleporter is fours years old and we have had a few problems with it. If money was no object I would like to see the back of it."

A good subsoiler to take the place of an ancient Paraplow and a three-leg conventional machine lacking a packer roller is also a possibility.

"One machine we have been trialling this spring is an Opico spring tine weeder. We have been through three times on a field of spring barley about 10 days apart and it looks quite useful. We should probably have started a bit earlier, but the field wont need a herbicide."

The main risk in disrupting replacement policies is that most machines eventually need changing at the same time, he says. "Hopefully, that will be in better times ahead."

NORTH

AN extensive shopping list is out of the question, says Anthony Hornshaw: "We definitely will not have enough money."

That said he hopes Croft Farms, near Darlington will generate enough profit for him to be comfortable buying a 120hp 4WD John Deere tractor, probably second-hand, and a Christmas tree packer to palletise 100 trees at a time. Also on the list is a set of Vaderstad Rollex Cambridge Rollers with crossboard to work and level land ahead of the Vaderstad drill.

"At present our plough, Simba double-press and occasional power harrow system works well."

But the chance to work land without ploughing, for establishing oilseed rape after cereals and wheat after beans and potatoes, could be improved albeit at some expense. "Our existing machine is a Rollamec, a heavy duty chisel plough with a flat roller for depth control. But it does not chop straw or mix it in properly."

A set of Simba discs with the back discs penetrating 50mm (2in) below the front could do a better job. "Ideally we would also have a Caterpillar tractor to pull the discs and an eight-furrow Rabe reversible plough to allow the Cat to plough out of the furrow.

A chaser bin on low ground pressure tyres to empty combines on the move while causing minimum soil compaction is another highly desirable, but unlikely, purchase.

SCOTLAND

IF the intended whole-farm contracting business at Balgone Farms, North Berwick takes off, the main modification will involve the drill, says James Grant Suttie.

He operates a gravity-fed Amazone RPD401, whose 10cm (4in) apart Suffolk coulters are prone to blocking, he says. "I am pleased with our 4m system, but the drill is awkward to move around. I would probably go for a fold-up pneumatic with wider spaced or disc coulters to allow trash to get through. I would like to change sooner rather than later, but I probably cannot justify doing so for our own farm alone.

"I do not anticipate doing much contract spraying." Other Law Farmers with Fast-tracs and mounted sprayers and front tanks are expected to absorb the bulk of any new workload, he says. That means his five-year-old 20m trailed Berthoud machine is unlikely to be replaced for some while yet. "I am very happy with it. It suits our system."

With 40ha (100 acres) of potentially suitable land, he has long been tempted to invest in machinery to grow potatoes. "It looks as though the crop could be worthwhile over the next few years. But it is just not feasible. We would need to find a lot of money from somewhere to buy planting, harvesting and dressing equipment."

NORTHERN IRELAND

IF Graham Furey had unlimited funds he would spend it on a villa in Spain: "I certainly would not buy farm machinery."

Realistically, he is keen to improve drilling at Killyleagh. There are many small, scattered fields and always the possibility of taking on more land, which might require bringing in part-time labour.

"That would enforce some sort of machinery change and I would probably be looking at a one-pass system." An Amazone conventional gravity-fed machine on a power harrow has been demonstrated, but proved unsatisfactory on his steep land.

The seed tubes were not vertical enough, and reversing uphill to ease the seed flow tended to block the spouts, he says. "But I would be interested to see how an air-drill on top of a power harrow performs."

The other potential upgrade is a Cambridge rolls replacement. "We only got 10-15% of our cereals rolled last autumn and it was not hard to see the difference this spring. There were lots of patches and slug damage where we had not.

"Some contractors round here are using big 6m Dalbo sets, which seem to do a good job." The big question is whether finances permit outright purchase or whether hiring would prove more economical. "I expect I could easily get a contractor in." &#42