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Justin Blackwood

10 March 2000

Justin Blackwood

HOW time flies when you are enjoying yourself, or rather not following recent rains.

In the past month we have hardly been able to get on land to look at crops let alone drill or top dress. We did manage to apply 87 kg/ha (70 units/acre) of liquid nitrogen, plus sulphur on the oilseed rape but it is now nearly the middle of March and the workload is beginning to back up.

Instead, more time has been spent chasing the mouse and punching keys on the computer searching for some answers to the current situation in farming. One thing comes to the fore time and again – the need to keep cutting costs and avoid unnecessary new expenses.

Top of the list for the latter must be the ACCS membership. What have members received for three years subscription so far? Not a lot. Over £2m/year is being leached from the farming community for what purpose? Meanwhile, some of the schemes directors are collecting substantial salaries.

Huge sums are spent on advertising using fear tactics to pressure growers into joining, warning that non-members will be left with nowhere to market their grain. They tell us that only a minority of growers has yet to join but that is not how I see it. The latest figures suggest membership has actually fallen in the past year and less than half of cereal growers are paid up members.

If assured grain is so important to merchants and the industry, why do they import non-assured grain as soon as they can get it for £0.50/t less than domestic produce? Until there is a level playing field, why should we pay any attention to these people?

As an alternative, merchants could verify stores under UK Feed Assurance standards and guarantee to purchase your feed grain. Surely it is merchants like that whom we should be supporting, not those who support "bully boy" tactics on an already depressed farming sector.

Is ACCS membership worth any more to growers than this handful of grain, asks Justin Blackwood at Grange Farm in Northants.

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Justin Blackwood

20 November 1998

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

562ha (1389 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally

linseed

CLEAR blue skies, temperatures up to 35C (95F), and little or no rain in some areas for months. Definitely not Northants in Nov.

Three friends and I are travelling over-land across Europe, through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the burning sands of the Sinai desert, on our way to Cape Town. We have reached Nairobi and here the conditions have turned a bit more like those at home I suspect.

The roads, already badly affected by the El Niño rains in early 1998, are deteriorating further and demanding daily changes to our route. The depth of pot-holes in the UK is measured in inches. Here, they measure them in feet.

While crop walking in the Nakuru game park, my progress was halted by heavy breathing in the undergrowth. Further investigation revealed the rare crop disease rhynco-rhinoceros. Protectant rather than curative activity is preferable, and I recommended a rapid retreat!

For the trip, we are driving a new Toyota Landcruiser Amazon VX, with active suspension and nine cup holders for our G&Ts. It takes everything in its stylish stride, from motorway and rocky mountain passes, to muddy and rutted African dirt tracks. However, under heavy loads our vehicles suspension system is not functioning consistently, and there is a risk of spilling the drinks. Toyota is giving it some urgent attention.

Back at Grange Farm, we still have 113ha (280 acres) of winter wheat to plant, 28ha (70 acres) of which is durum. In addition 36ha (90 acres) of winter peas need planting.

I intend to follow a farming motto which has often stood me in good stead. "If it doesnt feel or look right, then dont do it." This means we will not force drilling under poor seedbed conditions. If necessary durum wheat and winter peas can be spring drilled and winter wheat seed kept for autumn 99. Spring wheat would be drilled in its place. I cant wait to get back…

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Justin Blackwood

8 May 1998

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

562ha (1389 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally

linseed

Justin Blackwood farms

562ha (1389 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally

linseed

ALMOST the end of April and with 146mm (5.7in) of rain behind us, we have just managed to complete our main T1 cereal spraying.

We were lucky enough to be asked last year if we could provide a site for New Farm Crops to place a wheat trial at Grange Farm. This is one of several such trials the company has around the country to assess variety yield performance in different locations.

Along with this trial, NFC staff were kind enough to drill us about 15 varieties of wheat on an area of 0.5ha (1.2 acres), which is sufficient to be able to try four different fungicide programmes.

I do not intend to complicate things by adding other inputs, like variations in nitrogen rate or plant growth regulators, as this would only confuse the results of a small farm trial. Plots will be harvested by an NFC plot combine and taken to yield, so we should get some very interesting farm information.

The programmes I have chosen are:

1. Alto 240 (cyproconazole) at 125ml/ha with Amistar (azoxystrobin) at 600ml/ha at T1, followed by Amistar at 1000ml/ha at T2.

2. Landmark (kresoxim-methyl + epoxiconazole) at 700ml/ha at both T1 and T2.

3. Alto 240 at 215ml/ha with Bravo 500 (chlorothalonil) at 1000ml/ha at T1, followed by tebuconazole at 700ml/ha with Patrol (fenpropidin) at 250ml/ha at T2.

4. Landmark at 500ml/ha at T1 and Amistar at 500ml/ha at T2.

We will wait to see what the gods send us during May and early June before deciding on any ear wash requirements.

The winter peas continue to look tremendous, now stand a foot high and are in flower bud. It has been hard work completing the herbicide programme. As soon as they have had a few days to recover, we will begin the fungicide treatments. I intend to follow last years success of a mix of protective and systemic products, namely Bravo and Alto. &#42

Justin Blackwood hopes to glean valuable information about fungicide/ variety interactions thanks to a New Farm Crops trial on the farm.

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Justin Blackwood

13 March 1998

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

562ha (1389 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally

linseed

ALL our crops look very advanced, the oilseed rape has been growing for most of the year and started even more rapid growth in the past two weeks.

It has had 88kg/ha (70 units/acre) of nitrogen plus sulphur and will receive another 125kg/ha (100 units/acre) with sulphur as Liquid N35S by mid-March.

I intend using a mix of Folicur (tebuconazole) plus 3C Cycocel on the 40ha (100 acres) of Martina industrial rape for disease control and to prevent lodging during the later stages of flowering. If March is mild, I think we will see some rape flowers before the month is out.

Our winter beans, which were ploughed in, were harrowed during dry conditions in late February. Simazine herbicide has also been applied. Winter peas look as strong and forward as I have ever seen them; maybe too thick this year.

Ploughed-in and tine-drilled spring beans are emerging, but rook activity is a problem. When soil are dry they can easily dig down 7.5cm (3in) or even 10cm (4in). Recent rain and wetter soils should slow them up, but we will have to be vigilant for a couple of weeks yet. Most wheat and barley is at or approaching the stem erect growth stage (GS30) and has had 37-63kg/ha (30-50 units/acre) of nitrogen with sulphur. If conditions are suitable we will try to treat winter barley with growth regulator and any trace element required and wheat with the first half of a split pgr programme over the next two weeks.

What little idea of spring chemical prices we are able to get suggests manufacturers are not going to cut prices enough to compete against foreign imports. I strongly believe that they should move towards price parity and thereby allow our British distributors to be competitive. &#42

Well grown wheats are presenting challenges for Justin Blackwood. PGR and trace element sprays are due any day. But planning further ahead is proving tricky given the rarity of new fungicide prices.

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Justin Blackwood

13 February 1998

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

562ha (1389 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping hinges

around winter wheat, plus

winter barley, rape, peas,

oats and occasionally

linseed

DELUGE or dust". Well perhaps not dust just yet, but with no rain for over two weeks we are back on the land.

It has been a busy time. We have ploughed in and lightly power harrowed 24ha (60 acres) of spring beans and are halfway through tine drilling another 48ha (120 acres), which we will spray with simazine and trifluralin.

The oilseed rape is ready for its liquid nitrogen and sulphur, winter barley and wheat will get their first nitrogen towards the end of February, we have 2000 pigeons to exercise four times a day at three different locations and 500t of barley to deliver to a local merchant.

One of our more difficult decisions is going to be what to do with oilseed rape disease control. In what looks like being one of the highest pressure years for phoma in recent times, we have to decide the most cost-effective course of action – and quickly.

Our autumn Punch C (flusilazole + carbendazim) was applied later than preferred, but seems to have done a good job. However, it may not hold the disease until the traditional early stem extension timing for a second fungicide. So, is it best to bring the second fungicide forward or do we apply an extra treatment in between?

I costed Punch C at £12/ha (£5/acre) plus £5/ha (£2/acre) for farm application. Oilseed rape for Oct 1998 is worth about £150/t and average crop yield is 3.5t/ha (28cwt/acre).

So, each £17/ha (£7/acre) treatment must increase yield by 3.3% or 116kg/ha (0.94 cwt/acre) to cover cost. If weather conditions continue to favour phoma and in particular stem canker, yield loss could top 10% (the cost of three fungicide applications).

So, I will apply two further fungicides to our better crops and advance the second fungicide to March on the remainder. Time will tell whether this is the right approach. &#42

All action in Northants- Justin Blackwood is well on with catch-up herbicide spraying. More tricky to judge is phoma control in rape.

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Justin Blackwood

21 November 1997

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

562ha (1389 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally

linseed

I have always tried to do every operation as best as conditions will allow and to do them at the right time. With soil types on the land we farm ranging from sandy loam to silty clay – often within the same field – this has usually

I have always tried to do every operation as best as conditions will allow and to do them at the right time. With soil types on the land we farm ranging from sandy loam to silty clay – often within the same field – this has usually paid dividends.

But if we are going to have to live with cereal prices of £70-80/t for the next few years we have got to look at our fixed costs again.

To this end we have been looking at different seed-bed preparation ideas. We have had demonstrations of several double presses, including the Cousins and Galucho, both with leading tines and the new Simba Culti press with its hydraulically operated tool bar with levelling and firming fingers mounted between the tines and front press wheels. All have done a very impressive job.

I believe that under most conditions such equipment should be operated at the upper end of their speed range. The manufacturers estimated hp requirement/metre is usually optimistically low. Given adequate power up front an increase in forward speed can soon expand the work rate of a narrower machine.

Most of our 140ha (350 acres) of oilseed rape, including 40ha (100 acres) of Martina High Erucic industrial rape, Licrown and Apex was drilled from Aug 26 to Sept 4. Some went in on Sept 15 after late harvested wheat.

Our cereals were all drilled between Sept 17 and Oct 4. Thats early for us and included 210ha (525 acres) of winter wheat (Riband, Malacca, Charger, Abbot and Rialto), 55ha (135 acres) of winter barley (Regina & Muscat) and 22ha (54 acres) of winter oats (Aintree).

Froidure winter peas were combi drilled on Oct 24-26. Punch winter beans at 20 seeds/m2 were drilled on Oct 28-31 onto the stubble and ploughed in 13-15cm (5in-6in) deep only.

That just leaves us with 69ha (171 acres) of spring beans to drill.n

Justin Blackwood grew winter peas at Grange Farm with some success this year, and has drilled more again this autumn.

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