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Mark Ireland

23 August 2002

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

SUNDAY, Aug 4, and the proverbial hit the harvest fan in a big way. Two days after seeing sprouting in our Hereward wheat, we found some spring barley growing in the ear.

Luckily, our friendly and obliging grain merchant was playing tennis next to the field in question – it was Sunday after all.

He left with various samples for analysis, the aim to decide which of 213ha (526 acres) of Optic and 252ha (623 acres) of milling wheat should take priority.

As it was, the heavens opened with only 35% of our wheat cleared and barley dries out that much faster so was cut first from there on.

A frantic fortnight later, with crops cut at high moisture content to begin with and the drier working 24 hours/day, we finished our cereal harvest.

Has the urgency paid off? Well, yes and no. In terms of yield we have had one of our most successful harvests other than with winter barley. Optic spring barley averaged 6.38t/ha (2.58t/acre) and winter wheat 8.6t/ha (3.48t/acre).

That wheat figure is especially pleasing since 50% was the lower yielding Hereward. Star of the harvest is Xi19 which averaged 9.81t/ha (3.97t/acre).

Most surprisingly, given all the rain we had, none of the wheat went flat, or, as my daughter Tilly puts it, "went to sleep".

Nonetheless, quality has been variable. Spring barley germination ranges from 96% to a worrying 92%, but bushel weight is good and nitrogen 1.4-1.75%.

Wheats bushel weight and protein is good too but Hagbergs are going to be a problem.

What started as full spec Hereward tumbled to 120 within a week. Xi19 started out at 12.7% protein, 80kg/hl and 337 Hagberg but that too has slumped to 160.

Malacca and Option appear to have held on better at about 200, but I must stress these later Hagberg figures are based on a very limited sample at this stage.

Most entertaining moment of harvest – disturbing a completely naked man sunbathing in a field of barley! &#42

Spring barley germination is in the balance and Hagbergs have had it, says Mark Ireland.

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Mark Ireland

24 July 2002

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

HARVEST began here on July 15. Winter barley results have been slightly disappointing so far. Yields vary from 6t/ha (2.4 t/acre) for Leonie and Diamond up to 7.3t/ha (2.9t/acre) for the best Pearl. Quality is as yet unknown.

Overall, that is 0.9t/ha (0.35t/acre) down on last years average and less than our budget. Not a good start with a base feed price at £52/t.

Fortress oilseed rape on the other hand has exceeded our expectations with a yield of 4.2t/ha (34cwt/acre) and is now awaiting delivery to a local feed mill at £148/t, no bonuses to be added.

The closure of our local New Holland dealership has prompted others to target our area. We have already been joined by a John Deere 9780 CTS equipped with a 25ft header. As is to be expected with a new machine it went very well, daily output well over that of our TX66s.

However, there are two problems. Firstly, the yield meter tried to convince me that we were cutting barley at 11t/ha (4.5t/acre). Secondly, I dont think now is the best time to be making large capital investments unless a large saving in harvest operations can be proved.

That said, we appreciated the opportunity to have a lengthy demonstration to find out both the good and bad points of the machine.

Are many people aware of the current draft consultation looking at environmental standards in farm assurance schemes? Pressure from several different groups, citing an inconsistent approach towards environmental standards across different assurance schemes, has resulted in a quite unbelievable draft document for consultation.

I thought that current ACCS standards cover most aspects to supply our markets with a safe crop, at no extra return to ourselves I might add. But I am wrong. The draft document proposes that farms should appear tidy to the general public, with entrances clear of rubbish and non-essential vehicles.

A written conservation statement will be required, hedges must not be trimmed before August, and much, much more. Where will it all end? &#42

The consultation document on including environmental standards in assurance protocols is quite alarming, says Mark Ireland.

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Mark Ireland

28 June 2002

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

WHAT a busy month June has been. A welcome return to show time with Cereals and the Lincolnshire Show, field-walking and spraying in between, and now harvest only a couple of weeks away. The month has flown by.

I am sure most of us are approaching harvest with much more enthusiasm than we did a year ago.

However, present commodity prices temper that and difficult decisions must be made over next years cropping, a point not lost on the agricultural trade at Cereals. Companies were offering anything from a cup of coffee to the chance to win 25t of fertiliser to prise this information from us.

The knee-jerk reaction to low prices is to set more land aside. But if that is to achieve a positive financial position both labour and machinery costs must be cut too. A brave decision, which may be effective in the short term, but I wonder what the long term effect would be, especially with skilled labour already in short supply.

We are very lucky to work with four dedicated and loyal staff and it was a great privilege to see two of them, Laurence Winter and Brian Pemblington, collect long service awards at the Lincolnshire Show. With 44 and 42 years service to us they must be applauded and I am very pleased and grateful that the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society are able to recognise them in this way.

I hope all who made it to Cereals 2002 found it worthwhile. Although DEFRA had a stand it was disappointing that no government minister could find the time to attend. Surely an hour or two at the countrys premier arable event is not a lot to ask? This absence highlights their view of our industry.

Finally, I would like to congratulate The Royal Agricultural Society on their excellent organisation, not just on the day but throughout our association with them. Also, would the burglars who broke into my brothers on the afternoon of the first day please return the lawn mower. &#42

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Mark Ireland

31 May 2002

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

IT is a very uncomfortable feeling when something is out of control and there seems very little that you can do about it.

That is the feeling I have at present with a field of sugar beet, part of which we had to redrill, an operation I have been lucky enough never to have done before.

A multitude of sins are causing our grief but mostly it is due to the crop following 10 years of temporary nitrate sensitive area grass.

Pest attack includes a low level of wireworm, higher level of garden chafer grub and a highly intelligent population of crows who know that by pulling up whole beet plants there is a good chance of finding a ready meal – heaven for them but misery for us. Whats worse is that the field borders the busy A17 road.

Arrangements for Cereals 2002 seem to be progressing well. My comments last month regarding the lack of rainfall did the trick and we have now received plenty for the time being.

Visually all crops turned around and I now hope that the hard work put in by the organisers is paid off with two good show days. We look forward to welcoming all visitors and hope they have an interesting and enjoyable visit.

Crops have a nasty habit of springing the odd surprise or two at this time of year. For us it is rogue barley in some wheat and judging by recent trips both north and south by train we are not alone.

In some instances the fields have not been in barley for three years yet the barley is not in the row and therefore not imported with the seed. Im sure it wont manifest itself as a problem but it does look desperately untidy.

Finally, it looks like we should all be preparing ourselves for a big aphid year. Already I am finding huge numbers in sugar beet and to a much larger extent in the top canopy of the cereal crops. &#42

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Mark Ireland

3 May 2002

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

IT never rains in a dry time – the older generation of farmers are far too fond of quoting that annoying little saying at present to be good for my stress levels.

I wont go as far as to say that we are in a drought yet, but it is extremely dry. We had just 24.8mm (1in) of rain in the eight weeks to last Friday and all of that came over just two days. Crops are under severe stress both on the light heath and to a lesser degree on the heavier clay loam. Although very recoverable at present it will impact badly on yields unless we get regular rain soon.

What a year to be asked to host the Cereals event! Recent springs have been kind to us in terms of rain delivered, but at some stage all good things come to an end. Much will now depend on how the trial crops and plots have been managed as to how well they cope with the dry weather. That said, as soon as we do get a decent rain their appearance will change in a matter of days.

No doubt the uptake of nitrogen in the dry conditions has been very slow. As malting barley growers that raises a question:What will be the effect on grain nitrogen? We have all increased N applications in recent years and this spring it will not be used until much later by the crops. It may be the ideal chance to make full use of strobilurin chemistry in our fungicide programmes and its perceived reduction of grain nitrogen content.

Dry weather always seems to increase pest problems and we have had to treat spring beans for pea and bean weevil. One field of sugar beet following NSA grass is carrying a high level of wireworm and plant population is down to 66,000/ha. Gaucho (imidacloprid) seed-dressing is killing the wireworm, but not before the grub has done for the small plant in the process. &#42

Last years wheat looks a picture compared with this springs after the recent dry spell, says Mark Ireland. "We are losing tillers already," he comments.

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Mark Ireland

12 October 2001

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

PROGRESS in the past month, like many others, has been all too frequently interrupted by the weather.

In hindsight, it was a good decision to begin drilling into dry seedbeds during the first week of September. Now, as every belt of rain passes through, the feeling that weve been here before is beginning to grow.

Seed-beds have generally been good, resulting in quick and even establishment and much to my surprise the heavier land is reasonably free of slugs – quite a relief as the low seed rates employed a month ago look good in budgets but carry with them a higher risk.

Spraying is being hampered by wind. Cereals need a first application of cypermethrin and oilseed rape needs blackgrass and volunteers removed. Most of all we need to spray off grass fields in the nitrate sensitive area that are being brought back into arable production.

That brings me on to my next subject – Environmental Impact Assessment regulations. The government is at the second consultation stage over its proposals to extend requirements for EIAs to uncultivated and semi-natural land where it is intended to use the land for intensive agricultural purposes.

This sounds harmless enough but the implication is that in some instances the decision making for operations on parts of your own farm is taken out of your hands and put into those of the government.

One category of land potentially falling within the scope of the regulations is grassland that has not been ploughed for ten years, hence our apprehension with reference to the nitrate sensitive area grass. I assume long-term set-aside put into grass and permanent grass would also be included.

If land falls within the scope of these proposals it will mean having to justify operations such as ploughing, harrowing, reseeding and even applying fertiliser to your own fields with an environmental statement. In my opinion that is unacceptable but time is running out to have your say on this proposal. Implementation is expected early in 2002. Further details are on www.defra.gov.uk. &#42

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Mark Ireland

14 September 2001

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

Work is going well, a new cropping year bringing renewed vigour and enthusiasm to all that we do. Drilling progresses at a pace, the weather for once being helpful and everyone is working extremely hard.

However, harvest isnt quite over, with a field of spring oilseed rape and one of linseed left. Although desiccated these still look some way off.

Our Hereward and Malacca wheats averaged 7.3t/ha (2.95t/acre), 13% down on our five-year average. Despite starting at 21% moisture because we had found the odd sprouting grain, Hagbergs in the Hereward were marginal at 190-260. I always knew last years 500t that we kept in store would come in handy for a bit of blending.

The speed at which these Hagbergs dropped is worrying. We cut at the first opportunity, indeed our neighbours probably wondered what on earth we were doing, but still quality has been reduced. I know the weather has a big part to play but I am beginning to wonder if the strobilurin used at T3 could also be to blame.

Overall, harvest didnt produce much joy. However, one local growers comment did bring a smile to my face. "I didnt realise wheat was capable of yielding as little," he said.

While cutting wheat, we had a Claas Lexion 480 on demonstration for half a day. What a superb piece of equipment. I cannot find fault with our own TX66s which, with 1900 hours on the clock, still cost just £1.75/ha in repairs this harvest. But the output of the Lexion was unreal and ease of operation made the drivers task a pleasure. Im sure there were bad points, but half a day wasnt long enough to find them.

Newly sown Fortress oilseed rape has been very well treated by the weather with 16mm (0.6in) of rain falling immediately after drilling. Establishment is good and flea beetle seed dressing seems to be working – the only pests attacking it are rabbits down one headland. &#42

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Mark Ireland

2 February 2001

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

AS I pulled up at the house a fortnight ago the lambs grazing on stubble turnips seemed to typify the day.

They looked miserable, cold and wet with a fairly uncertain future.

Earlier in the day the return to wet weather had halted ploughing and drilling spring barley and then the local radio station announced Lincolnshires only beet factory is to close permanently at the end of this campaign. That was then compounded by news of two further closures.

There have always been rumours about the long-term future of Bardney and the fact that last year it processed only 6% of the crop – the same percentage that we, as growers, took out of production last year, made it even more likely that the possibility of closure loomed. But to close three factories suggests British Sugar is taking a very pessimistic view on the current review of the sugar regime and "Everything but Arms" proposal.

I am sure any "change of heart" by British Sugar is out of the question so it must be down to the NFU to try to negotiate the best deal possible for growers affected. Many will have to haul beet much greater distances at a time when haulage costs are going up and transport payment from British sugar is going down.

Our longest dry spell since mid-September and some decent frost in the middle of January did allow us to catch up on a few outstanding jobs. Fields previously too wet for the fertiliser spreader to travel on received an application of phosphate and potash and, unusually for us, a couple of ploughed beet fields had 2t/ha of ground limestone applied to correct low pH. Both operations hardly made a mark.

We are always looking to cut costs so have decided not to treat the spring barley seed with Evict (tefluthrin) against wheat bulb fly. That allows us to use our own dresser but also means we will have to be extremely vigilant of this devastating little pest. &#42

Bad news for beet… Factory closures make British Sugars view on Everything but Arms clear, says Mark Ireland.

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Mark Ireland

16 June 2000

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

APOLOGIES to those of you who have had too much rain, but this weather suits our farm "down to the ground".

There can be no excuses this year about poor grain fill due to lack of moisture on light heathland soils. So long as the sun remembers to shine at some stage before harvest, I see no reason why combining should not be an enjoyable experience this year.

Just to ensure that the rain did not stop I took a weeks holiday at the beginning of June. Being as adventurous as ever, we stayed at home with the farm radio off, mobile off, and my wife hiding truck keys to try to stop some evening field walking. We took the children for days out and to the coast, and, in between being told to keep my eyes on the road, one thing struck me nearly everywhere we went. There is a huge amount of blackgrass in crops. The past three years seem to have prompted an explosion of it, be it through the wet weather or more likely the fact that it has turned resistant.

Resistance was one of the many topics we covered on our BASIS course that finished with exams at the beginning of June. Well done to everybody. The 100% pass rate is an excellent reflection on the teaching standards of Simon Goodger and his colleagues at De Montfort University, Caythorpe. I recommend BASIS to all, not as a route to becoming a full-time agronomist but as a means for farmers to further knowledge. For example, understanding how blackgrass becomes resistant and why not only chemical but cultural methods should be used to control it.

Our farm stores are finally empty. Hereward averaged 8.17t/ha (3.3t/acre) at £98.17/t, nearly all over 14.3% protein. Optic spring barley, which was sold last October for delivery before the end of March, has gone into a merchants store. He is still awaiting instructions from the malsters but it has at least reduced our risk. &#42

Blackgrass is starting to show in many crops across the region, says newly BASIS qualified grower Mark Ireland, from Lincs.

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