James Hosking - Farmers Weekly

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James Hosking

23 July 1999

Mike Rowland

Mike Rowlands 141ha

(350-acre) Bowden Farm,

Burbage, Wilts, is in organic

conversion with 32ha (80

acres) going fully organic in

Oct 99. Potatoes, carrots,

wheat and peas will rotate

with grass for suckler cows.

At Amesbury 404ha (1000

acres) is in conventional

seed production

ON a recent farming tour to Spain and Portugal I found a vast area of land down to intensive cereal production.

It is totally unsuitable and prone to severe erosion. There is no doubt this EU addiction to subsidies has upset the areas correct farming system and highlights little regard for soil type. I am sure crop choice is largely based on the aid available.

Now I am setting up my budgets for next year, I find I could be in the same position. Gone are the years of experience and technical farming skills learnt over the years. It seems more like gambling at a casino and hoping for the best.

I have noted arable aid predictions but am not going to grow wall-to-wall wheat as the budgets might suggest. I shall maintain a well balanced rotation with Apex winter rape, Nitouche and Agadir peas, sugar beet and potatoes.

The cereals will probably be Fanfare winter barley, which still performs best on chalk, and Malacca winter wheat as the best yielding miller. Spark is always good on my thin chalk and Soissons gets my combine out first.

For feed wheat Clare looks fantastic, probably the most promising of our seed production this year. Savannah will stay to maximise yield, but I will allow for heavy fungicide costs for it to reach its full potential.

On the organic front we seem to have grass everywhere and have bought a wider flail mower to keep the paddocks and set-aside under control. We shall hay the front paddock, where there is a wonderful mix of grass and clover.

The organic potatoes look fantastic and reflect the better accuracy of the new planter. Weed control appears good with only a little fat hen that caused trouble with the harvester last year. It will probably be rogued soon.

At the time of writing we have resisted getting the combine out because the tramlines are still very green. &#42

Teddy Maufe

Teddy Maufe farms 407ha

(1000 acres) as the tenant of Branthill Farm, part of

the Holkham Estate, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. Sugar

beet lies at the heart of the

rotation, with other crops

including winter barley,

wheat and oats, spring

barley and triticale

WE had 30mm of rain at the end of June and beginning of July followed by 10 days so far of straight sun, a real change from last years dry but sunless July.

The Halcyon and Regina winter barley are rapidly ripening as I write this in mid-July.

We have more thistles than usual in all our cereals, brought on, I think, by the damp spring and early summer, and coming through after the herbicide application.

On one of our spring barley headlands, because of a mechanical breakdown, we dispensed with the plough and just used minimum-pass style discs. The result is interesting in that the barley on this headland is miserable and dying off. Admittedly there was some compaction from the sugar beet harvesting, but other comparative headlands which had been ploughed are farming much better.

The sugar beet has enjoyed the previous rains, and now the heat, but will soon need another good soaking to keep it going on this light land. The crop looks good, except for the heavier headlands, which were not really dry enough when we were forcing a seed-bed. Soil structure has suffered and the roots in these places are poorly shaped and struggling.

We have just had a gang in to clear the weed beet by hand. In a few more seasons we will, hopefully, be on top of it because until this year, by pulling regularly each summer, numbers have been declining. But this year we definitely had more than I would expect.

The bird life at Branthill is on an up at the moment, which is pleasing. There has been a noticeable depth of variety to the dawn chorus and there has been a general increase in the sighting of birds such as spotted and green woodpeckers and treecreepers.

On the animal front, the drive round the farmhouse seems the equivalent to a hares ring road and most evenings they lap us! &#42

Kevin Littleboy

Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha

(600 acres) as Howe

Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N

Yorks. The medium sandy

loam in the Vale

that crops from Leeds/Bradford Airport to the Vale of York were far better than I thought they would be.

I expected to find vast areas of reseeding, wet holes and failed crop growth. That just was not the case.

All fields have been photographed again so I can build up a picture over a number of years. One problem this season, very noticeable from the air, is take-all, which I suppose is not surprising due to the wet conditions winter wheat went into.

I have one field of continuous wheat affected, which proves that the disease never goes away and that it is the conditions that dictate its reappearance.

Nothing has moved me from my office to a field so fast as reading a report that a large area of winter wheat in Europe had failed due to lack of vernalisation when drilled late in the spring. But I am happy to relate that my Abbot drilled in March does have grain sites and three or four ears a plant.

Robert Thornton, a local farmers son, who has serviced, maintained, and mended various implements and the combine over the years, is off to new pastures at Kverneland from our local Stewards depot. I wish him all the best, and thank him.

The farming industry continues to learn about diversifying. Now it is obviously the machinery distributors turn, as I discovered at the Great Yorkshire Show.

A financial manager was seen for 42 minutes trying to sell a Claas Challenger to two North Yorkshire police officers. I suppose the tractor has potential for ram-raiding or riot control, but I still think a sales course would be beneficial or at least an explanation that farmers do not wear bullet-proof flak jackets and helmets. &#42

James Hosking

James Hosking farms 516ha

(1275 acres) with his

parents and brother at

Fentongollan, Tresillian,

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

I AM not superstitious, but as I write this on St Swithins day, I am relieved that it is not raining.

For the past two years the prophecy has proved fairly reliable. The recent dry weather has allowed us to get all the daffodils lifted on to the surface and picked up. When the ground is dry, the soil falls through the lifter webs easily, which allows them to travel faster and makes a better job of separating out the crop.

The bulbs are now being carted in for cleaning, grading and sterilising. A new grading line has just been installed which should allow us to meet delivery deadlines. Every year our customers seem to want their orders earlier, and after a week of teething trouble we now have some catching up to do.

Bulb yield and quality appears quite good. Our main difficulty is that in striving for higher yields, there is a bigger proportion of large bulbs. Pre-packers buy from us by the tonne, but sell by the number of bulbs, so they want bulbs as small as possible.

It is time consumers realise that when they buy bulbs, size does matter. These small bulbs may suit the profit margins of garden centres, but they will not produce such a good show of flowers in spring.

Winter barley is just about ready to combine, and I hope that by the time you read this we will have made a start. We grow it as an entry for forage rape for fattening lambs in the spring. The earlier the rape is drilled, the better the crop, so we are keen to get going.

Winter oats and wheat are also changing colour rapidly, the oats to such an extent that I do not think there will be much of a break for the combine after the barley. I will not comment on the effectiveness of the fungicide regime until I know the yields. &#42

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James Hosking

29 May 1998

James Hosking

James Hosking farms 516ha

(1275 acres) with his

parents and brother at

Fentongollan, Tresillian,

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

SINCE the change in the weather at the beginning of May, we have had an extremely hectic three weeks. The drill, fertiliser spreader and sprayer have all been flying around the farm catching up our April backlog of work. I doubt if any tractor driver in this area saw much of their family over the May bank holiday.

We completed the nitrogen application to all winter cereals. The wheat has received 185-205kg/ha (148-164 units/acre) depending on previous cropping, the barley 155kg/ha (124 units/acre) and the oats 125 kg/ha (100units/acre).

Our fungicide programme is also up to date. The barley received a first spray of 0.5litres/ha Opus (epoxiconazole) plus 0.5litres/ha Corbel (fenpropimorph), followed up with 0.5litres/ha Opus on the flag leaf. The oats have received two applications of 0.33litres/ha of Alto (cyproconazole), primarily to control crown rust. The first was applied with the herbicide, either Swipe (bromoxynil + ioxynil + mecoprop-p) or cmpp (mecoprop-p) and the second with chlormequat at GS32.

What to use for the wheat fungicide programme has been a harder decision. We finally decided to go down the strobilurin route, but to a budget. Mantra (kresoxim-methyl + epoxiconazole + fenpropimorph) was applied first at 0.7litres/ha, followed by 0.5litres/ha at flag leaf.

Because the weather in April delayed the spray programme there were only 18 days between the late first application and flag leaf sprays on both wheat and barley.

Whilst we have been getting on with field work, the farm is dominated by our brassica module raising unit at this time of year. We produce about 21 million plants, mostly winter cauliflower and cabbage, which are supplied to growers here in the south-west. Of these, 13 million need to be delivered at the beginning of July. This gives my brother, who manages this enterprise, a logistical headache because they all have to be seeded and laid out in the tunnels in early May to be ready on time. The planting out date for these crops is critical for their success.

The peak time for the brassica seedling business has clashed with spray catch-ups for James Hosking and his brother at Fentongollan, Cornwall.

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James Hosking

1 May 1998

James Hosking

James Hosking farms 516ha

(1275 acres) with his

parents and brother at

Fentongollan, Tresillian,

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

WHEN I last wrote in farmers weekly, we had just finished picking daffodils, were nicely up to date with spraying and fertilising, and spring drilling was about to start. Thanks to the vagaries of our weather, four weeks later we are still in the same position.

We have scraped a couple of days drilling, only half a day spraying, and bit of ploughing. With another wet week forecast at the time of writing, we are starting to get a little anxious. Apart from lack of timeliness, losing a month at this time of year will take a lot of catching up. When we do get going we will have to work out our priorities, especially for the sprayer.

Spring arable cropping is normally kept as simple as possible. But in light of the likely margins, we decided it would be best to spread our risk this year. The plan is to sow Rex peas, Starlight oilseed rape, and Antares linseed. Unfortunately, out of 102ha (252 acres) of spring crops, only 20ha (49 acres) of rape has been drilled, and that is still to emerge.

On ineligible ground we will be growing Laura flax on contract for the Industrial Crop Partnership. This organisation has won a grant to build a processing factory at Launceston, so we thought we had better support local industry rather than take a contract further afield.

Our intention to turn cattle out just before Easter was delayed because of the weather. A couple of days ago we finally ran out of straw, and put them all out. Another day of heavy rain resulted in some very miserable cows and calves, as well as badly poached fields, so we have had to bring them all back in again. There is plenty of silage left and luckily a neighbour has some spare straw.

Hopefully, things will improve very soon. Everybody seems to be in the same boat.

Less than 20% of spring crops are planted on James Hoskings Cornwall farm. Only two days drilling have been possible in the past four weeks.

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James Hosking

3 April 1998

James Hosking

James Hosking farms 516ha

(1275 acres) with his

parents and brother at

Fentongollan, Tresillian,

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

DAFFODIL picking is now nearly over. Early varieties make up most of our area, so there is now only a relatively small amount left to pick. We keep some of the later varieties to give a better range of bulbs to sell rather than for their flowers.

The returns from the flower crop have been exceptionally poor this year. This is easier to accept when it has been caused mainly by the weather, rather than the cause of the drop in income of other enterprises.

We are now able to concentrate on our main spring work. The wheat has all reached growth stage 30/31 and has now been sprayed with chlormequat and a reduced rate of Cheetah (fenoxaprop-ethyl) for wild oats. The autumn herbicide has done a very good job, so a spring clean up is unnecessary.

There is plenty of septoria on the old leaves, but we will hold off with the fungicide for a while. The farming Press has been getting very excited about the levels of septoria in crops around the country because of the mild spring.

These are conditions we get every year and I dont think it warrants the amount of print chemical companies and advisers are creating.

The winter barley has just reached the end of tillering and was sprayed with growth regulator and Grasp (tralkoxydim) for wild oats.

Crown rust is appearing in the oats and will be sprayed for at the next opportunity. It is a disease we seem to get affected by badly in our sheltered fields, and is remarkably difficult to control. Various fungicides appear to control it, but then three weeks later it appears back on the old lesions.

At the moment it is wet here, which is welcome after a long dry spell. As soon as conditions are fit we will be getting the spring crops drilled. &#42

Daffodil work is mostly finished so James Hosking can now focus on combinable crops. Widespread fears of Septoria need keeping in perspective, he suggests. "We see conducive conditions here every year."

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James Hosking

6 March 1998

James Hosking

James Hosking farms 516ha

(1275 acres) with his

parents and brother at

Fentongollan, Tresillian,

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

DAFFODILS have dominated the past month, the warm weather having brought them on quickly.

With about 130 people picking we have just about kept on top of the crop, harvesting superb quality. We market our own flowers mostly in this country, with some sent for export to Holland.

The price we receive is dictated purely by supply and demand. Unfortunately the early spring across the whole country has destroyed our normal climatic advantage. All the main daffodil regions have been picking, which has resulted in a heavily oversupplied market and low prices.

I do not think I can ever remember getting most of our crop picked in dry weather before. But the unusually dry February has made it a much more pleasant job for everyone.

It has also meant we have not had one of our usual headaches at thios time of year – mud on the roads from the tractors hauling the flowers out of fields. Even in this very rural area the public are becoming increasingly intolerant at this time of year.

We also provide a mail order service for "daffodils by post" at this time of year. As Mothering Sunday approaches, our phones and fax are starting to get busy; daffodils are a popular present for this occasion.

Nitrogen was applied to all the grass in mid-February to get it growing. But we have held off the winter cereals, because they were all well tillered and looking green. Only now have we started applying fertilser as 125kg/ha of 30%N, 19%SO3 Sulphan.

Our first lambs, which are marketed through the Cornish Quality Lamb group, have just been sold. The base price was £2.55/kg, poor compared with last year, but better than we feared. &#42

Daffodil harvest got off to a fast start at Fentongollan. But early conditions elsewhere in the UK have hit prices, says James Hosking.

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James Hosking

9 January 1998

James Hosking

James Hosking farms 516ha

(1275 acres) with his

parents and brother at

Fentongollan, Tresillian,

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

DECEMBER is not normally a time when we would expect to be able to do much field work.

We were fortunate earlier in the month to get a couple of days dry enough to finish off the drilling and do some more spraying. That last bit of wheat has now emerged and is looking nice, and we hope we have sprayed all the cereals that are at risk from virus.

The end of December is our year end, so there is plenty of office work. It is a sobering experience when you see this years gross margins compared with the past two.

In the south west it has not only been politicians and currency values that have frustrated us, the weather has also done its best. A fairly severe drought in the spring, from which the crops on the thinner soils struggled to recover, was followed by an extremely wet harvest. Unfortunately we get a daily reminder of this from the straw when bedding up the cattle.

Working out next years budgets is giving me a sense of déjà vu. I remember sitting here and trying to juggle figures in exactly the same way in the early 90s. There seems little scope for cutting inputs, so we just have to hope their prices will fall to a more realistic level (strobilurin manufacturers please note). I learnt then to my cost not to try to be too clever with fungicides.

We picked the first daffodils of an early novelty variety just before Christmas. Despite the wind and the gales, the underlying temperature has been warm enough for the flowers to grow. If we do not get a cold spell before long, it looks as though we will be in for an early season.

Are you receiving? James Hosking wants manufacturers to reduce input costs to more realistic levels as there is little scope to cut back on rates.

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