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Leonard Morris

6 November 1998

Leonard Morris

Leonard Morris is tenant at

206ha (510-acre) White

House Farm, South Kyme

Fen, Lincoln. His heavy land

grows winter wheat and

oilseed rape and spring peas

and linseed. Lighter ground

is cropped with potatoes,

spring rape and linseed.

WHAT a month we have had since I last wrote. We have had only two days with no rainfall, and I have recorded 75mm (3in) so far in October. We are well behind with our work now and I have just ordered extra seed as I shall be increasing seed rates when we get drilling again.

The first half of the month was spent ploughing the heavy land, most of it in reasonable condition. Ground due to be drilled with wheat then had one pass with the Dynadrive to leave it in good condition, whatever the weather did.

Wheat drilled at the end of September looks well and has had 5.5kg/ha (4.9 lb/acre) of Draza (methiocarb). I also put Draza on the fields after peas and oilseed rape, before they were drilled, as there was a very large slug population present. Why is it slugs eat the wheat in a wheat field and leave rape volunteers, while in the rape fields they eat the rape and leave wheat volunteers?

The wet weather delays have allowed me to get a second kill of blackgrass in the problem fields, using Sting CT (glyphosate) at 2 litres/ha prior to drilling. Oct 18-22 we were busy spraying the oilseed rape with 0.5 litres/ha Fusilade (fluazifop-P-butyl) plus 0.5 litres/ha Partna (wetter) for volunteers and 0.25 litres/ha Cyperkill (cypermethrin) for flea beetle, as well as working land, drilling Consort wheat, and finally harvesting Linola.

Unfortunately everything came to a sticky end with continuous rain six hours earlier than forecast. That has left me with three hours drilling that is now like a pudding, a field that has only the headlands rolled, and half an hour of combining to do. Why cant the weather listen to the forecasters a bit more? We did get the Linola finished on Oct 25, but we need a lot of drying weather before the drilling will go again.

Early drilled wheat is doing well, but the rain intervened when Lincs grower Leonard Morris had just three hours drilling left. Extra seed is needed now.

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Leonard Morris

22 May 1998

Leonard Morris

Leonard Morris is tenant at

206ha (510-acre) White

House Farm, South Kyme

Fen, Lincoln. His heavy land

grows winter wheat and

oilseed rape and spring peas

and linseed. Lighter ground

is cropped with potatoes,

spring rape and linseed

APRIL weather seemed to have the sole goal of raining on as many days as possible, which left us to finish drilling the linseed and Linola on the light farm on odd days when we could.

The first of the linseed was nicely up before the last was drilled at the end of the month. By then the wheats on the heavy land were starting to show signs of being wet for too long, with yellow areas starting to appear. It was decided to apply 175kg/ha of ammonium nitrate to help them on, even though it was a lot wetter than when we would normally go on the heavy land.

In many places there was water standing in the tramlines and at one time I had a duck swimming down the tramline in front of the tractor. A friend near Worcester went one better – he found two pike in his barley.

But the many periods of rain did allow me to get my IACS forms filled in earlier than normal and delivered to Nottingham.

May arrived with a change. Instead of rain we had sunshine and strong winds. We worked down the heavy land ploughing for linseed as soon as the conditions were suitable. But by the time I had drilled it the wind had dried it out and the dust was blowing.

The second half of the pea field was then drilled, exactly six weeks late. Much to my annoyance, we could do with some rain now to get the crops well germinated. Another effect the sun and wind had was to cause the wheat fields to start cracking open. You could see roots drying out, and as it has been so wet I would expect the crops to be shallow rooted, so causing more damage than normal.

The linseed and linola are growing well, but the spring rape is backward and now under pigeon attack.

Unfortunately, wheat spraying is later than it should be and it will be interesting to see how the new triazoles and strobilurins cope. &#42

Early morning shooting to protect vulnerable spring rape has been a must, says Leonard Morris.

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Leonard Morris

27 February 1998

Leonard Morris

Leonard Morris is tenant at

206ha (510-acre) White

House Farm, South Kyme

Fen, Lincoln. His heavy land

grows winter wheat and

oilseed rape and spring peas

and linseed. Lighter ground

is cropped with potatoes,

spring rape and linseed.

WHAT a change in the weather from last month – with only 2mm of rainfall and temperatures going up to 18C the land has finally started to dry enough to carry a tractor.

I managed to get the worst of the wheat sprayed, using Amazon (clodinafop-propargyl + diflufenican) at 1 litre/ha, Auger (isoproturon) at 2 litres/ha and 1 litre/ha of Cropoil adjuvant.

I hope, this will stop the blackgrass, meadow-grass and most of the broad-leaved weeds, which had been growing with impunity.

A lot spraying and drilling has been done in the area over the past few weeks. Deep tramlines in some fields show how people pushed to get urgent spraying done despite the wet.

The last of the Rialto winter wheat and a load of oilseed rape have gone. It should have been in January, but early February seems to be close enough this year.

The main job this month has been harvesting potatoes. We borrowed a Grimme Harvester, and used as much family labour as possible. Well, that is the cheapest, isnt it? Now what is left of the crop is in store, we hope we will get some return – eventually.

Strangely, nobody has called to see if I want a crisping contract this year.

I shall now be busy getting ploughed up ready for spring crops. The winter oilseed rape also needs its first nitrogen and the last of the wheat needs spraying.

Just to help, one of the tractors developed an internal hydraulic problem. With luck it will be sorted out quickly, so that one tractor can be on duals for spraying and spreading while the other is ploughing on the light farm.

Before Christmas a local paper forecast snow for the first week in March, based on the flight of birds. So we need to get all necessary field work done by then. &#42

Its good-bye to White House Farms 20-year old MF760 combine, cosseted by Ian Wells (left) the mechanic from Chandlers, who has seen it right all that time. Leonards father John (right) has driven it every season. Now they will have to get to grips with the second-hand MF38RS that dwarfs it.

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Leonard Morris

30 January 1998

Leonard Morris

Leonard Morris is tenant

at 206ha (510-acre)

White House Farm,

South Kyme Fen, Lincoln.

His heavy land grows winter

wheat and oilseed rape

and spring peas and linseed.

Lighter ground is cropped

with potatoes, spring rape

and linseed.

IT IS a long time since we have seen so much water. Since I last wrote we have had 109mm (4.3in) of rain compared with 4.5mm (0.17in) plus 50mm (2in) of snow over the same period last year.

The Internal Drainage Board pumps have kept our dyke levels well under control. However the rivers they have been pumping into have been at their highest levels for some years.

We had several acres of wheat under about 150mm (6in) of water for a week where water seeped through the Carr Dyke bank. The level in the dyke was about 2m (6.5ft) above field level.

Over the same period, temperatures have also been higher. Last year we only recorded 4 days of 8C or above; this year we have had nearly five times that number.

Crops are still growing, as is blackgrass. We may be due for a weather change – we have the largest flock of wood pigeons in the area for many years. The first I saw of them was when a 16ha (40 acre) field of rape got up and flew away. A days shooting supplemented with gas guns has kept most off the crop since.

We have loaded our first rape contract at last. It should have gone before Christmas but movement has been very slow. Our second wheat contract on a merch ants pool has also now been filled. I am looking forward to the results.

The first load of Rialto has also been collected, a day later than expected. The lorry was due mid-morning, but did not arrive until early afternoon, just as the rain arrived.

Unexpectedly, that rain turned to snow and we very quickly had a 25mm (1inch) covering. The driver decided he did not want to be snowed-in in the middle of nowhere and left.

Stuck in the yard. Leonard Morris is keen to plough 70ha (173 acres) of lighter land destined for linseed, oilseed rape and perhaps spring wheat – once waters subside.

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Leonard Morris

2 January 1998

Leonard Morris

Leonard Morris is tenant at

206ha (510-acre) White

House Farm, South Kyme

Fen, Lincoln. His heavy land

grows winter wheat and

oilseed rape and spring peas

and linseed. Lighter ground

is cropped with potatoes,

spring rape and linseed

UNLESS I get a hovercraft for the sprayer Im not going to be able to do much about our fast growing blackgrass. That means we could have quite a problem later on.

In the meantime weve shifted the last of the linseed. It was grown for seed, but got caught by the wet end to the harvest, so I was worried about quality. Sure enough it failed seed classification, being slightly below minimum germination and just over total disease levels.

Return weights give a yield of 1.5t/ha (0.6t/acre) which is 0.25t/ha (0.1t/acre) down on the 5 year average, and nearer 1t/ha (0.4t/acre) down on our goal. Although the price is reasonable, losing the seed allowance has hit margin.

For the cereals I decided to try marketing through two grain merchant pools as well as myself this year. However, poor yields mean very little grain was left after the two merchant pools took their allocations.

I have already sold the remainder, so shall be very interested to see how the pools fare over the season.

Meanwhile, I have come across a problem with grain being transported in bulkers that have previously hauled beet.

Unless these have been washed out they are dirty inside, but the grain merchants will not say whether a vehicle with dirty sides is in a "fit condition to carry grain to enter into the food chain".

As they will not definitely say yes, I will no longer load an unwashed trailer after sugar beet. One merchant said a mill could argue that grain from such a lorry had contaminated their store if it only decided the grain was unfit to enter the food chain after tipping had started. Then what happens? Personally, I do not want to find out.

Finally, may I take this opportunity to wish everybody a very happy Christmas and we will have a better 1998.

Gross margins make miserable reading for 1997. Linseed cut at the end of last season did not help, as it failed to make a seed sample. But a test of two grain marketing pools could make for interesting results in 1998 for Lincolnshire farmer Leonard Morris.

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Leonard Morris

5 December 1997

Leonard Morris

Leonard Morris is tenant at

206ha (510-acre) White

House Farm, South Kyme

Fen, Lincoln. His heavy land

grows winter wheat and

oilseed rape and spring

peas and linseed. Lighter

ground is cropped with

potatoes, spring rape and

linseed

Since last writing our harvest report has slipped from bad to major disaster.

Our potato harvesting contractor arrived late and following frosts down to -5.5C. Our potato merchant would not let us lift until the ground temperature rose.

Once we started the first two loads were immediately rejected for frost damage. On speaking to a local potato merchant (not in crisping potatoes) we were told there was no market for crisping potatoes, there were generally too many on contract and they would keep putting us off until the colours went.

After three weeks of excuses, last weeks trial load was rejected for the colours having gone. Having had several years of crisping potato contracts only just making a margin and more hassle each year, growing crisping potatoes on contract no longer makes sense.

In future we will be expected to wash potatoes and cope with rear loading temperature controlled containers. We will carry the risk on the crop until crisps come off the line in packets and will only get static contract prices in return.

We have enough problems growing a respectable crop in tricky weather without that crop being rejected out of hand because someone has over contracted. I certainly dont believe my crops grow perfectly in an above contract price year, and grow badly in a below contract price year. Yet that seems to be the case.

Apart from a month of sleepless nights, I have sprayed the volunteers in the rape field that was looking like a lawn with Laser (cycloxydim) and Cropoil. The volunteers are now dying well.

I have also sprayed Consort winter wheat with IPU, Trifluralin and Cyperkill (cypermethrin) to control blackgrass, broadleaf weeds and aphids. Unfortunately wet weather since November 5 means no more wheats have been sprayed. Indeed, our fields are now very wet and friendly – walk on them, and they dont want to let you go.n

Autumn-sown crops have established well for Lincs farmer Leonard Morris, but crisping potatoes are a nightmare.

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