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Jim Macfarlane

20 November 1998

Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

ANOTHER month has passed with little progress. Wheat drilling has been impossible since Oct 15 and it now looks unlikely we will manage any more this autumn.

More spring barley seems inevitable and the maltsters must be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of cheap and plentiful supplies. However, for us and many others the land that is left is really too heavy for the crop.

What we have sown is establishing desperately slowly. Wheat sown a month ago is yet to emerge and even some winter barley has only a single leaf. Little rolling has been possible leaving crops vulnerable to slug damage.

However, full-rate metaldehyde at sowing, plus a follow-up treatment where needed seems to be working.

Our attempt at weed control on earlier sown cereals sums up this years experiences. On one of the few decent days, 32ha (70 acres) was sprayed with Trump (ipu + pendimethalin). The next day, forecast showers turned into our worst floods in seven years and I am afraid we have lost the ipu component at least.

Oilseed rape spraying has been more successful with most of our area now treated with Contrast (carbendazim + flusilazole). Kerb (propyzamide) has also been applied where no Butisan (metazachlor) or Falcon (propaquizafop) went on. Our low profile tyres are again proving their worth with little mess despite waterlogged soil.

It is very frustrating to see crops get such a bad start, especially following such a poor harvest. Farming isnt much fun in Scotland right now. Perhaps we need a "Freedom Not to Farm Bill".

If payments at IACS levels were available to turn farmland into parkland, managed for wildlife habitat, I bet there would be plenty of takers. It has to beat struggling all year just to make a loss.

However, I for one would not be joining that queue. Surely things can only get better, and I want to be farming when they do.

Farming in Scotland is not much fun at present, says borders farmer Jim Macfarlane, but he has no intention of quitting, even if paid for parkland management.

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Jim Macfarlane

5 June 1998

Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two-thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

MY! Your barleys shot early this year," remarked a neighbour recently.

"Er, well, thats a field of wheat actually," was my embarrassed reply. Embarrassed, not by my neighbours ignorance, but by the appalling number of barley volunteers in my wheat this year.

We always have volunteers but this year they are quite out of control. I offer three explanations.

1 We do not have time to germinate and kill off volunteers.

2 We grow too much six-row barley.

3 We have a big hole in our combine.

As for number one, I really envy people in the south who can combine in the middle of July, then have five weeks to kill off volunteers before establishing rape.

We usually have about 10 days between winter barley harvest and sowing rape, during which time we have to cut our rape, too.

As for number two, we can get astronomical yields of six row barley so I shall continue growing it.

Number three? Pass me the duct tape!

On a more serious note, I am livid about the governments plans for a tax on chemicals. This would leave us at a serious disadvantage in Europe, but I feel the proposals will get a lot of support from the misguided majority who still think all farm chemicals are evil. Do they really believe we splash-on these chemicals just for fun?

I reckon those we ingest voluntarily after every visit to our doctor are of much more concern. Even the environmental benefits of a tax would be very limited. Making farmers worse off is not the way to protect the environment.

We are currently treating our Chariot barley with Punch C and Boscor at low rates, our winter barley and wheat with Mantra, and our peas with Fortrol and Pulsar. Falcon, Cheetah, Starane, Ally and Swipe have all been used in the past fortnight along with Konker, Round-up and Terpal. I wonder how much more I would have paid for that lot under the governments plans? &#42

Jim Macfarlanes wheat contains far more winter barley volunteers than he would like. Government plans for an input tax add to the gloom.

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Jim MacFarlane

8 May 1998

Jim MacFarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

RAIN, rain and more rain punctuated by snow has been falling here most days for the past month.

Field work has been held back, but growth has slowed in the cold weather, so crops are now little more advanced than normal, which is no bad thing.

Most of our wheat fungicides are being applied about now, the last week in April, which I think is soon enough here. Most wheats wont reach GS 39 until the end of May, so if we go too soon it is a long time till the next application.

Septoria is the only obvious disease and I would rather delay now than have crops unprotected as the flag leaf emerges, when disease development is faster. Some forward Riband has missed its chlormequat timing, so here we have used Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) at 0.15 litres/ha for the first time.

Fungicides have been a mixed bag, with Sportak Delta (cyproconazole + prochloraz) used on our second wheats and Sanction (flusilazole) elsewhere. Apres (quinoxfyfen) at 0.1 litres/ha has been tried in a comparison with our usual Patrol (fenpropidin) for mildew protection.

Winter barley has recovered remarkably well from the slug damage and looks well, if thin in places. The Regina has had 150kg/ha (120 units/acre) of nitrogen as the malting premium looks too low to make it worth compromising yield.

Our spring barley looks well just now. Manganese seed dressing was used and seems to be working because we do not have our usual deficiency symptoms yet. Slugs are grazing but with crops tillering they should cope.

In fact, all our crops are still being grazed by slugs, which is worrying. I spent a fortune over the winter trying to get rid of them. We must hope for a long dry spell to help reduce numbers for the autumn. Our heavy land copes well with drought and our best yields have come in years when we have been concerned about lack of moisture. &#42

Bright dry days this spring have been a rarity for Jim MacFarlane.

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Jim Macfarlane

10 April 1998

Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

OVER the past couple of weeks the weather has been kind to us, allowing spring work to progress well.

The oilseed rape has been sprayed and fertilised and is now at flower bud stage. Few pollen beetle are around, so I only need to worry about frost on this crop just now.

Spring drilling ended on Mar 23 with 7.5ha of Elan peas. Our heavy soils were still wet beneath a dry top layer, so I was grateful for our low profile tyres.

These must be one of the best developments in recent years. Our soil is our biggest asset and we try hard to minimise damage. Using the tyres on a power harrow/drill combination at only 13.5psi and rolling at 10psi must help. They are also much less hassle than duals and a lot more comfortable. It is almost like having suspension. They also allow early top dressing with no rutting of tramlines and all our wheat has now had its first fertiliser dressing.

We had some wheat at GS32 by the end of March, which is unheard of for us. Other fields are only just starting stem extension, meaning spraying is a fragmented business this spring.

As the wheat is fairly clean, the forward crops have only had chlormequat and some manganese where required. I do not want to start spending money on fungicides for wheat in March when we have to keep the crop clean for a good 18 weeks yet.

We survived our recent Scottish Quality Cereals reassessment relatively unscathed, although we still need to update some lighting. I cant understand the resistance from some farmers to the quality schemes when it is only a check on good farming practice.

Those that do not come up to standard need to get their act together and those that do have nothing to fear. We must never forget we are producing food and it must be of the highest quality. I certainly would not want to eat muesli from some of the stored grain I have seen!

My only objection to the schemes is cost. Surely with increasing numbers of people joining the fees could be reduced. I just hope the income from the scheme is being well used to persuade end users to buy British. &#42

Low profile tyres have been a boon to Jim Macfarlane this spring. Benefits include rut-less top dressing and greater cab comfort, he notes.

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Jim MacFarlane

13 March 1998

Jim MacFarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two-thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

RECORDS are being broken here already this year, with spring barley sowing beginning on Feb 26, our earliest ever start

A relatively light riverside field is being sown with 380 viable seeds a sq m of home saved Chariot.

Field work had actually restarted on Feb 18 with the application of 325kg/ha (1cwt/acre) of Hydro Sulphan fertiliser to the oilseed rape. The crop looks good and is well ahead of normal. It will soon receive its second dose of fungicide as Punch C (flusilazole + mbc).

The cereals are also generally much more advanced than normal and very lush. These fields will receive no nitrogen for some time. but in fields with slug damage I am inclined to apply some nitrogen now to encourage tillering. The problem is the damage is patchy. It looks like the lush bits in between will just have to become even lusher.

All our cereal fields receive their first nitrogen as a blend with phosphate, potash and sulphur. This is due to a lack of time in the autumn for spreading. I also think it is quite a cheap way of buying nitrogen.

Unusually, we have low potash levels. So the first dressing is a 13.5:26:16 blend with 5% sulphur to keep the potash status in the medium range. Any really low fields receive some MAP in the autumn.

I am sure GPS soil mapping will be the way forward for us but I am not ready to bite the bullet yet. I think some advances in sampling and application are still needed. I would bet two samples taken within metres of each other would often give quite different results.

The value of the system depends on accurate sampling, analysis and application and I do not think we are quite there yet. Maybe sometime in the distant future we will be able to do instant analyses as the spreader travels over the land and adjusts inputs accordingly. Now that would be progress. &#42

Pigeons beware! Traditional technology suffices for todays pest scaring and fertilser spreading. But real-time precision farming could help target inputs in future, hopes Jim MacFarlane.

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Jim Macfarlane

13 February 1998

Jim Macfarlane

MOST of our time recently has been spent on work arising from our membership of the Scottish Countryside Premium scheme.

This excellent scheme is allowing us to plant over 0.6 miles (1000m) of new hedgerow and fence off 0.45 miles (720m) of river margin at little cost to us other than labour.

An area of wetland has also been fenced off and the annual payment for this and other areas more than compensates for the loss of grazing.

The SCPS has been seriously underfunded and only 50% of applications have been accepted. It is disappointing that so many people have been deprived of grant aid to carry out conservation work.

Despite this, I still believe that far too many landowners have little interest in even maintaining habitats on their land. Ive seen many acts of environmental vandalism where farmers have spoiled the landscape in a greedy quest for more cultivated area.

I understand the need to rationalise fields for efficient use of modern machinery – Ive done it myself. But far too many people have gone way over the top in ripping out hedgerows etc, without putting anything back.

Our largest field is 32 acres (13ha) and that is too big for me. I find it a great morale booster to finish one field and get on to another. While work rates may be lower in smaller fields, I believe this is more than compensated for by reduced erosion, less pest trouble and a much more attractive countryside.

I realise our machinery is small compared with that used by other businesses, but surely even the biggest of tackle can get by in a 50-74 acre (20-30ha) field.

Had IACS money only been available on the first say, 50 acres (20ha) of every field, I would bet that much environmental destruction would have been avoided or even reversed.

This type of field by field modulation would be preferable to whole farm limits and would bring environmental benefits. &#42

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two-thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

Put something back – Jim Macfarlane gets on with planting hedges and trees. He believes it is vital to improve the environment.

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Jim Macfarlane

16 January 1998

Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

THIS has been the worst slug year I can remember. Many fields have thinned patches, but at last we seem to have the pest under control.

While winter wheat should compensate well, we have thinned winter barley, too, and I suspect we have lost more yield in this crop. The late germinating areas were vulnerable to slug damage and they remain poor. I just cant see us having big winter barley yields in 98.

But the oilseed rape still looks well and we have not had too much pigeon trouble as yet. The crop could well be our best earner again and I wish we had been able to sow all our planned area.

Our last 8ha (20 acres) was after spring barley which left little time to get rape sown. I needed to bale the barley straw and the weather broke as the combine left the field. By the time the field was cleared it was August 30, which was too late to risk; a cold autumn can leave September-sown rape really struggling here.

Chariot spring barley and Elan pea seed are undergoing germination tests. If the results are good it will be cleaned and dressed by a mobile unit ready for sowing.

The water supply to one of our farms has just been put on a meter and immediately we realised we had leaks. Much time has been spent tracing the system and finding and repairing both the leaks, as the new water authority here is ruthless in charging for lost water.

I must now find time to check our four meters regularly for excessive consumption. With about 30 troughs scattered around the farm we have great potential for leaks.

I have about 10 fields to soil sample. But with everything waterlogged I am going to wait. My feet feel heavy enough without several kilos of mud sticking to my wellies.

Oilseed rape continues to look well at Edrington Mains. But Jim Macfarlane has been battling with slugs. Barley is the main victim.

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Jim MacFarlane

19 December 1997

Jim MacFarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

WITH field work now completed I have had more time to reflect on this years problems.

Wheat yields were down 2.5t/ha (1t/acre) on the previous year, with bushel weight at about 70kg/hl. That was despite an expensive fungicide programme including the new strobilurin Ensign, which meant we needed a good price to maintain gross margin.

Some hope! So far we have sold 200t. That was a couple of months ago, at a price which I then thought was terrible. I would jump at it now, but with over 400t unsold I think I will wait until the New Year and hope something happens to lift the market.

To make matters worse we have about 150t of low bushel weight Manitou in store, which would be really hard to market just now.

At least we have 160t of rapeseed unsold. That has gained a good £30/t since harvest and, despite paying storage costs on this, I will sit on it into next year. I am sure there are more price rises to come. At this stage the gains on the rape just about match the losses on the cereals, so I guess I should not be too unhappy.

But I cant help feeling that had I completely ignored the market for the past few years and sold the lot around harvest time, as in the past, I would have done as well as I have by trying to be clever and guess the way things are going to go. Still, when you do get it right the gains are substantial – so I will keep trying.

Anyway, miracles apart, our results this year are going to be way below budget and we are doing some belt tightening. Some shed improvements we had planned have been postponed, and it looks like we will have to tolerate another year with a serious lack of harvest-time storage space.

Our 13-year-old second tractor is also becoming more troublesome and should be changed. But we will hope it stays together until our next financial year.

All in all, it is not going to be a bumper year for us. But we must not forget that last year we were even further over budget than we are likely to be below it this year. &#42

Grain marketing has been a painful process this season. But at least the cereal losses have been offset by the rapeseed rises, reckons Jim Macfarlane.

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Jim Macfarlane

21 November 1997

Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

THIS autumn slugs have been a bigger problem on our heavy soils than for many years. Huge slug populations and slow germination of crops in cloddy seed-beds have meant some wheat areas have had three applications of half rate metaldehyde and are still suffering leaf shredding.

I cant remember ever seeing pellets disappear so quickly from slug feeding. In some cases the pellets were all gone in two days, resulting in repeat application because many healthy slugs were still left.

Perhaps we should have used a full rate the first time. But I felt we could ill afford the expenditure this year and normally one well timed half rate does the job.

Good weather has allowed early completion of herbicide spraying. Pendimethalin at 1.3 litre/ha and IPU at 1-2.5 litre/ha have been used. After beginning to doubt the need for autumn residuals, given our relatively weed-free fields, I was amazed at the increased wild oat population this summer in two fields where we had been unable to finish spraying last autumn. An extra week spent rogueing soon renewed my enthusiasm for autumn residuals!

In contrast to the patchy cereal fields the oilseed rape looks very well on the whole, although one field of early drilled Synergy is much too advanced – it is over 30cm (1ft) tall already. I expect the first few severe frosts will leave it looking a bit sad.

Winter ploughing is progressing well in good going and will soon be completed. Tree planting is also under way, and with good grants available under the Scottish Woodland Premium Scheme were planting 3ha (8 acres) in four blocks. Weve lost many hundreds of elm trees in the last 10 years and the least we can do is to try and maintain tree numbers.

I was pleased to see buzzards on the farm recently for the first time; our two-year old refers to them as "buggers", but I hope they stay and help reduce our rabbit population!n

Time spent roguing wild oats last summer has renewed Jim Macfarlanes enthusiasm for residual herbicide applications this autumn.

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