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25 August 1995


MIDLANDS-based combines are fast wrapping up the remnants of the harvest, mainly spring break crops, which as expected, are proving disappointing to "disastrous".

The saving grace, says one merchant, is that there were fewer spring sowings than last season.

Barometer grower David Brightman, finished combining on heavy land at Gaydon Farm, Warks a week ago last Wednesday. Punch beans, giving an estimated 3t/ha (1.2t/acre) at the start "did not get a lot better".

On wheat his own field-scale trials suggest most first crops could have done with more nitrogen, despite the drought. Each year he tests calculated optimum rates against levels 50kg/ha (40 units/acre) higher and lower in "four combine width strips". Brigadier after beans, for example, which mostly had 200kg/ha (160 units/acre) gave 9.7t/ha (3.9t/ acre). With 50kg/ha less it gave 8.3t/ha (3.3t/acre), but with 50kg/ ha more it did 10.2t/ha (4.1t/acre).

There was a similar pattern in Hereward after oilseed rape. But second wheat Hussar, particularly affected by drought and blackgrass, produced its best yield, 7.3t/ha (2.9t/acre), from the lowest nitrogen dressing – 170kg/ha (136 units/acre).

Considering the conditions spring beans and peas on heavy land at Croft Farm, Newton Harcourt, Leics, both did "reasonably well at 23-25cwt/acre" says Brian Coates. "They had not had a drink since they went in."

Feed wheat, too, is "not far off what we expect" at 8.8t/ha (3.5t/ acre). It is a different story on mainly lighter land at Brewers Oak, Shifnal, Staffs, where Frank Dakin reports average cereal output "down about 0.25t/acre" on last year.

"But its been tremendously variable, some heavy land giving our best ever yields up to 4t/acre."

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11 August 1995


HARVEST continues apace in the region. Some areas will finish wheats by the weekend, 10-14 days ahead of last year.

Yields vary from 6.2 to 10t/ha (2.5-4t/acre), specific weights between 72 and 84kg/hl. Milling wheat quality is good.

Spring barleys have given 6.8t/ha (2.75t/acre) of low N, bold grain in the west, but have disappointed further east.

Oats have yielded well on good soils, though output is down to 5t/ha (2t/acre) on light ground. Reasonable specific weights are countered by screenings at 6-38%.

At Mercer Farmings Blakenhall Park, Barton-under-Needwood, Staffs, manager Steven McKendrick has cut 243ha (600 acres) of Riband and Brigadier.

Both gave 6.9t/ha (2.8t/acre) at 11% moisture, "half a ton an acre" down on last year. He blames poor seed-beds after late-harvested potatoes and less than 50mm (2in) of rain in four months.

John Stanley at Spring Barrow Lodge, Coalville, Leics, got a "good farm average" from his 142ha (350 acres) of wheat at minimum cost. "At 12% moisture we havent had to dry a thing – thats unknown."

Heavy clay soils at Gaydon Hill Farm, near Warwick, are producing a "very pleasing" wheat yield about 1t/ha (0.4t/acre) more than last year, says barometer grower David Brightman. "It didnt look as good as that."

A 37ha (91-acre) block of Hereward after rape gave 8.4t/ha (3.4t/acre), and a similar amount of Brigadier after beans just under 10t/ha (4t/acre). Second wheat, "blackgrass-infested" Hussar, has given 7.8t/ha so far.

Midlands barometer David Brightman sails through a block of Hereward wheat on heavy land at Gaydon Hill, Warwick, where yields are 1t/ha (0.4t/acre) up on last year. But blackgrass took its toll in one field.

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4 August 1995


NON-STOP sunshine has ripened wheats quickly. and combines are cutting seven to 10 days earlier than anticipated.

Barley and oilseed rape harvest is all but finished. Yields and quality are variable. Val Phillips of Wrekin Farmers reckons barleys range from 6.2-7.4t/ha (2.5-3t/acre). "Screenings are low, bushel weights are 69-70kg/hl and Ive not seen many malting barleys above 1.7%N."

Other traders in the east and south of the region report more variable crops, and in the latter area lower yields. Rape has given 2.7-3.1t/ha (22-25cwt/acre) in most places, though oils are slightly lower than last year.

Trevor Atkinson, Sentry Farmings manager at Kingston Park Farms, Kingston-on-Soar, near Nottingham, finished his rape last week. Apex did "slightly better" than Alaska. Overall yields averaged about 3t/ha (24cwt/acre), "a couple of hundredweight up on last year".

He started wheat on Saturday. "Its fitter than it looks. Weve cut some at 11%." Yields vary according to soil moisture, averaging 6.9t/ha (2.8t/acre), slightly down on last year. "But as long as the quality is there thatll do."

Further west in Cheshire, Stephen Shaw finished Gaelic winter barley at Aston Grange near Runcorn last week. The 18ha (45 acres) yielded 8.4t/ha (3.4t/acre) at 14% moisture. "It was a full half ton an acre better than last years Pastoral. I was very surprised given the lack of moisture."

Mr Shaw reckons "ideal" drilling conditions last autumn allowed roots to become well established, protecting plants from drought.

Aintree oats are giving just above 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), similar to last year. Specific weight is lower but "still acceptable" at 52kg/hl. "Superb-looking" Hussar wheat is next.

Barometer grower David Brightman decided to disc old rape ground and cultivate set-aside rather than rush into Hereward wheat. "Moisture came down from above 30% on Thursday to 15.5-17% on Monday. But with the weather set fair we decided to finish the land work."

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28 July 1995


LAST weekend saw barley harvest start in earnest. Crops ripened in the east and the rain that halted earlier attempts in the west went.

Nearly half the barleys were cut by midweek, says Kim Wells of Droitwich-based Acorn Arable. Yields and quality are very variable, anything from 3.7-7.4t/ha (1.5-3t/acre) with specific weights 55-70kg/hl. "We have had some really poor winter barleys. We expected much better."

Shropshire grower Steve Belcher had good and bad. He cleared 57ha (140 acres) by Tuesday at Tibberton Manor, near Newport. Intro approached 7.4t/ha (2.9t/acre), "better than expected". But Gaelic yields were poor at just 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre).

"It grew like mad in the autumn and then flopped over. It recovered but was caught by late frosts in April."

Ian Root of Mid-England Agriculture in Leicester reckons yields are better in his area. "Barleys are averaging 2.6t/acre and quality is very good."

More than half the oilseed rape has been cut. "Yields are better than last year at around 25cwt," he says. More even ripening means there is no red seed contamination this season.

Barometer grower David Brightman finished his 34ha (85 acres) of rape at Gaydon Hill Farm, near Warwick, on Tuesday. Moistures ranged from 11-18%, but with thunderstorms forecast he was keen to push on.

Yields are well up on recent years. Apex and Capricorn averaged about 3t/ha (25cwt/acre.) "That is the best since double-lows came in."

He believes drilling in mid-August helped. "Plants were much bigger in the autumn, so most of the crop escaped pigeon damage."

Sulphur was also used this season for the first time. But an untreated area gave as good a yield. "That tells me I wont have to spend too much money on this for a while."

Wheat harvest started on Monday at Mill Farm, Guarlford, near Malvern. Jim Bullock took 4.8ha (12 acres) of Genesis that died off on sandy land. He was pleased to get 6.2-7.4t/ha (2.5-3t/acre) at 16.1% moisture, with specific weight at 75kg/hl.

"Ripening is quite uneven. Some grains are bullet hard, others a bit green. But it seems sensible to go in and protect Hagbergs," he says.

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21 July 1995


LITTLE progress has been made. Crops are only just fit and weekend rain kept combines off fields earlier this week.

At Gaydon Hill Farm, Gaydon, Warwick, harvest should start next week. Barometer grower David Brightman has sprayed patches of weedy rape with Reglone (diquat). Pigeons, frost and the wet all delayed spring growth, allowing weeds in.

Wheat is "just starting to turn", he says. Overall, crops look "reasonable". But second wheats have more than their share of blackgrass and are dying off in places.

Winter beans have grown as never before, he adds. "There is a phenomenal amount of green material there. They also appear to be well-podded." He hopes this will produce high yields. But with some plants over 2.7m (9ft) tall, he does not want to desiccate. "We are hoping for chocolate spot to finish them off."

Andrew Hill, grain trader at MSF, near Worcester, reckons many rape growers were ready to start on Monday. "Two dry days is all they needed." Some barley has been cut. "Quality seems quite good but I wouldnt like to guess at yields."

Ian Root at Leicester-based Mid England Agriculture has seen "a couple of samples" of barley. "The farmers hadnt finished combining the fields, so I dont know the exact yields. But they seemed quite happy." Specific weights were good at 68-69kg/hl, he adds.

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16 June 1995


BLACKGRASS is the cloud in an otherwise promising outlook for David Brightman at Gaydon Hill Farm, Warwicks.

There is more showing above cereals than he would like. Despite being applied in good conditions, the autumn isoproturon herbicide programme gave "at best 70-80% control". "Weve also used Cheetah in some places at full rate, but it hasnt done a full job."

Limited testing for resistance shows the blackgrass in the worst field is still fully susceptible to chlortoluron, so the IPU should have worked well, he comments. But this years events leave him "concerned" and planning to do more testing.

On the plus side, he reports very little disease in the wheats, despite drizzly weather which extended the flag-leaf spraying programme. "After the dry spell we had enough rain for septoria to come in. In theory we should have sprayed within 14 days, and we were outside that. But theres no evidence of disease. Weve used Opus (epoxiconazole) across the board – at half rate because all the crops were clean at the time."

Despite the frustration with cereal spraying, he remains resasonably optimistic for harvest. "The crops look their best for three years. There is enough moisture, there are some big ears emerging and weve got good plant cover."

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19 May 1995


EVEN though there was no detectable disease on the wheats at Gaydon Hill Farm, Warwick, David Brightman went in with a "half-rate Silvacur (tebuconazole + triadimenol) plus wetter on everything" in the first few days of May. By then the most advanced crop, after oilseed rape, was at GS33 (third node detectable) with the rest at GS32.

"I still feel it is better to spray a little and often rather than hope to last out until the flag-leaf treatment," he says.

One rate was used across the board, partly for simplicity. Another reason was that although Hussar should be more disease resistant than Hereward and Brigadier, and thus merit a lower dose, figures challenging NIAB ratings made him cautious.

There is no set farm fungicide strategy – all depends on the disease pressure and season. This years overall crop cleanliness could encourage him to hold off with flag-leaf applications. "But I wont look to delay unless it stays completely dry."

Last "significant" rain in April on the heavy land farm was 10mm (0.4in) on 22/23, bringing the monthly total to only 19mm (0.75in). "But I am not concerned. We have had enough to make the nitrogen work. Let the light land boys suffer."

In its first full season, the farms new Gem sprayer has "worked a treat". But there is some evidence of field striping where a link arm on the fertiliser spreader came loose, he notes.

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5 May 1995


CONTRACTOR with farmer, contractor with machinery ring, contractor with contractor – the contracting industry should be about co-operation between parties, not rate-cutting and conflict.

A pipe dream to some, perhaps. But not to midlands contractor Colin Hinchley who, in partnership with his father, Brian, has used this "working together" ideal to build a business with an annual turnover of about £900,000.

"Farming is under pressure, and there is only a certain amount of work and income available. We should be working together, not cutting each others throats," Mr Hinchley says. "Contracting will always be competitive, but there are ways in which we can work together to mutual advantage."

Although Mr Hinchley took the traditional route into contracting in 1981 – he offered a one-man specialist spraying service – 75% of his business now comprises whole-farm contracts. He carries out all arable operations on 1620ha (4000 acres) in return for a contract charge plus bonus.

This "whole-farm" area has been expanded, in part, by using the Hinchley principle of co-operation: As well as increasing the size of his own machinery fleet, he brings in other contractors through the local machinery ring, EMTAK, of which he is a founder member.

"The area rarely increases by exactly the right amount to justify owning an extra machine. That is when it works well to bring in outside help – to fill in the gaps."

In addition to the contract farming operation, the Hinchley business still carries out what is considered to be conventional contract work – one-off jobs such as contract spraying and medium square baling.

The spraying operation, which extends to about 12,000ha (30,000 acres), comprises two forward control MB Tracs and a trailed Chafer machine, while two New Holland Ford D1000s bale an annual 26,000+ bales. &#42

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28 April 1995


LACK of moisture has meant a rethink on spring weed control in winter cereals at Gaydon Hill Farm, Warwick.

"A lot of broad-leaved weeds havent germinated," says David Brightman. Normal policy is to use CMPP (mecoprop) against cleavers in early April, hoping to mop up other species at the same time.

This year the cool, dry spell interfered with that strategy. And with the wheat approaching GS32 (second node detectable) he may have to switch to alternative, more expensive products such as Starane (fluroxypyr) and Ally (metsulfuron-methyl).

Conditions have also been against efficient growth regulator use. "At first it was too wet. Then its been too dry and too cold. But Im not too concerned. Were not very lodging prone, probably because of our soil type, and this year the two worst fields, on the hill, are set aside."

Winter beans "look very well", the only down side being quite high levels of ascochyta. "Ive been told theyll grow away from it."

Winter rape, which needed a pollen beetle spray, at the same time got Bavistin (carbendzim) for light leaf spot, manganese and, for the first time, sulphur. "Were borderline for sulphur deficiency. Weve left a patch to see if there is any difference."

Midlands barometer farmer David Brightman checks oilseed rape for frost damage at Gaydon Hill Farm, Warwick, last week.

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