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Ron Duncan

23 August 2002

Ron Duncan

Ron Duncan farms 222ha

(550 acres) in partnership

with his wife and eldest son

at Begrow Farms, Duffus,

Elgin, Moray. Crops include

winter wheat, spring barley,

swedes and beetroot,

alongside a pedigree

Limousin suckler herd

THE glorious 12th has come and gone again and it certainly went with a bang here at Begrow.

Unfortunately, the bang came from the combine as we ventured into the spring barley, a week earlier than last year. It wasnt a huge problem – a broken knife – and it did give the barley a couple of extra days to ripen which it probably needed.

Having carried out extensive field walking, my son discovered some alarming problems in the standing crop; germinating grain, split grain and fusarium.

However, I am pleased to report that samples of the first 75t of Optic look less alarming in the bin and we have had the all clear from the maltsters at 1.4% nitrogen, low screenings, and moisture on one sample an incredible 12.6% off the field.

It is amazing really, the power the maltsters hold over us. Under some pretext or other we often have to wait a week from cutting to receiving a yae or nae as to the acceptablility of the sample.

Meanwhile, we have separate heaps of barley from different fields, and different varieties, piled on every conceivable patch of concrete. The soonest we can expect to shift any will be the end of the week.

I suppose we should be thankful that the weather last week was excellent but we still have 120ha (300 acres) of spring barley to go and a little wheat.

It was back to normal on Sunday though – light rain all day. Yieldwise, both Optic and Decanter look promising with bold grain.

SAC is conducting extensive variety trials of both spring barley and winter wheat on our farm this year, including various chemical programmes.

Hopefully that will provide useful information for coming seasons.

My own wish is that we could find a variety of malting barley that can cope with this "muggy" weather pre-harvest which seems to be an annual problem nowadays.

More news on these trials next time round. &#42

Spring barley harvest started with a bang for Ron Duncan as an under storey of weeds did for the combine knife.

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Ron Duncan

24 July 2002

Ron Duncan

Ron Duncan farms 222ha

(550 acres) in partnership

with his wife and eldest son

at Begrow Farms, Duffus,

Elgin, Moray. Crops include

winter wheat, spring barley,

swedes and beetroot,

alongside a pedigree

Limousin suckler herd

AFTER checking the weeks weather forecast, we decided that last week would be the week to make hay with the grass that has been "locked up" in the Countryside Premium Scheme.

Cutting must be delayed until July 15 for the protection of nesting game birds, but since cutting it we have had 47mm (1.9in) of rain and it looks like it could end up in a plastic wrap.

You no doubt saw the wild weather at Muirfield on television. Unfortunately, all Scotlands east coast caught it this time. But what a transformation on Sunday – glorious sunshine all day.

We also had a couple of good days in the middle of last week when the first winter barley in the area was harvested on July 18 – 7-10 days earlier than usual. First indications are good quality and good yield.

Spring barley does not look early at this stage, but does look promising. I have walked many miles rogueing wild oats, certainly one of the best ways to assess grain crops.

It also highlights problem areas such as poor annual weed control. Advice from SAC on herbicide looks to have been too conservative to be cost effective. Another 10g/ha of Harmony (metsulfuron-methyl + thifensulfuron-methyl) will be applied next spring. There is nothing worse for a combine driver than a "knocking" cutter bar struggling through an understorey of annual weeds.

This week we are having our farm assurance inspection, now a joint operation for cereals and beef. Very accurate field records must be kept, a useful exercise once the system is in place and also a meaningful reference. We have been in the scheme for many years now as all our outlets insist on membership.

With no winter barley, harvest here wont start until mid-August. We are in the process of checking machinery, making sure everything is properly illuminated and all trailers have braking systems.

Our machinery ring has drawn up a list of good practice in conjunction with the police, so ignorance is no longer an option. &#42

Winter barley harvest has started for some in Morayshire but Ron Duncan is battling to get hay from Countryside Premium Scheme swards baled.

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Ron Duncan

28 June 2002

Ron Duncan

Ron Duncan farms 222ha

(550 acres) in partnership

with his wife and eldest son

at Begrow Farms, Duffus,

Elgin, Moray. Crops include

winter wheat, spring barley,

swedes and beetroot,

alongside a pedigree

Limousin suckler herd

I AM writing this article before heading south for a few days stewarding at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston.

Hopefully, the show yard will stand up to the heavy rain that most of Scotland and parts of the south have experienced in the past month. A few smaller shows and Perth races have already been cancelled which is a shame and a pain for the organisers.

However, I am pleased to say that is not the case in Moray. We have had enough showers to keep the country green, yet still have a soil moisture deficit of 30mm at the moment. Irrigators can be seen for miles around on vegetables and potatoes, battling against the incessant wind.

That plus strong sunshine and a temperature of 22C today could quickly turn some light soil areas from green to white.

I must confess I prefer over-dry conditions with the cows calmly lying down, chewing their cuds, which means contentment.

My son wants to come to Ingliston too but, as the spray operator, he is frustrated by being only half way through our spring barley ear emergence programme.

Our choice this season is 0.4 litres/ha each of Vivid (pyraclostrobin) and Opus (epoxiconazole). We also used Vivid at 0.3 litres/ha plus Folicur (tebuconazole) at 0.3 litres/ha on the wheat post-ear emergence.

I mentioned protecting beetroot land from the wind with a sprayed on coating in last months article. The £250/ha (£100/acre) investment seems fully justified at the moment as the crop is a picture. Germination looks just right having applied 2kg/ha of Goltix (metamitron) pre-emergence with adjuvant Actipron.

The weed seedlings are still keeling over from that at the moment but a further 1.7kg/ha of Goltix, again with Actipron, will go on shortly.

Now to more pressing matters. Do not believe that all Scots are happy to see England on their way home from Japan. We who grow malting barley would have been happy to see the supporters introducing lager to the whole of Asia! &#42

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Ron Duncan

3 May 2002

Ron Duncan

Ron Duncan farms 222ha

(550 acres) in partnership

with his wife and eldest son

at Begrow Farms, Duffus,

Elgin, Moray. Crops include

winter wheat, spring barley,

swedes and beetroot,

alongside a pedigree

Limousin suckler herd

LOOKING back on my last contribution, I was waxing lyrical about the ease of breaking down freshly ploughed land.

Well, things changed fairly rapidly. Continuous sunshine for the following five weeks turned the heavy land into concrete, making life a bit more expensive and a lot less comfortable. FW recently ran an article on "robots" and driverless tractors – I wish I had had one on demonstration for the first pass with the discs across the ploughing. That was really hard on the posterior.

I tried to find out from our local Met Office at RAF Kinloss just how many hours of sunshine we have had, but unfortunately I wont find out until the end of April, after this article has gone to press. However, I suspect we have had more in the past five weeks than we had all of last summer. With only 15mm of rain in the month a good "steep" now would be beneficial.

Everything is sown including areas that have been too wet to drill for the past two years. The oilseed rape in the area is already a brilliant yellow and winter wheat is moving through growth stages at an alarming rate. Ours is at GS32, having had a herbicide and pgr mix of 1.25 litres/ha of Oxytril CM (ioxynil + bromoxynil), 1.5 litres/ha Duplosan (mecoprop-p) and 2.3 litres/ha of Cycocel (chlormequat + choline chloride) last week. That was the cheapest option to control everything and it will shortly be followed by a fungicide.

We like to top-dress spring barley as soon as we see tramlines, so that is keeping my son occupied at the moment. He has carefully calculated rates for malting, allowing for previous cropping, including grazed-off turnips, and FYM applications, aiming for a 100kg/ha (80 units/acre) total of N.

We are considering changing a tractor, hard to justify at present but we will have to refresh some of our geriatric fleet before long. Lets hope for an easy harvest with satisfactory yields. &#42

"Oh for a robot tractor driver" says Ron Duncan after working down hard-as-concrete heavy land in Morayshire.

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Ron Duncan

12 October 2001

Ron Duncan

Ron Duncan farms 222ha

(550 acres) in partnership

with his wife and eldest son

at Begrow Farms, Duffus,

Elgin, Moray. Crops include

winter wheat, spring barley,

swedes and beetroot,

alongside a pedigree

Limousin suckler herd

ON the first of the month I suddenly realised it was just days to my next farmers weekly deadline.

What had we achieved since the previous article? Not much. Rain every day meant we had only just finished spring barley and all our wheat was still ahead of us.

But as the song goes, "what a difference a day makes". The sun came out and the wind blew. Combines rolled into tired-looking but still-standing wheat and while it is easy to make rash claims of 4t/acre when moisture content is over 25%, we finished at 17% on Oct 4 with what I believe will be an above average yield overall.

Weather damage and a customer with a big carry-over of spring barley can make it a soul-destroying crop in a year like this. But the first cheques are arriving and we are reasonably pleased with £82/t plus bonuses for low nitrogen. The problem is penalties for high moisture content are eroding the latter and we have a substantial heap in the dryer, which is only worth £60/t dried today – not good enough. We will hang on for a few weeks until the harvest rush is past, though that may still be some time in the later areas. Barley straw is in great demand but severe wind damage means lots of rowing up pre-baling is needed, work we did not really need.

We did get stubble turnips sown in perfect conditions in September and lifted all our beetroot as no other growers could move for wet conditions. An amazing return of nearly 37t/ha (15t/acre) was achieved despite the crop only having 17 weeks in the ground.

Now we are concentrating on land preparation for next years crops. Oilseed rape in the area has appeared quickly, but we have had to shelve winter oats for this year, as it is now too late. We aim to grow our normal winter wheat area, half min-tilled, half ploughed. &#42

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Ron Duncan

2 February 2001

Ron Duncan

Ron Duncan farms 222ha

(550 acres) in partnership

with his wife and eldest son

at Begrow Farms, Duffus,

Elgin, Moray. Crops include

winter wheat, spring barley,

swedes and beetroot,

alongside a pedigree

Limousin suckler herd

THIS month I had to have words with the Farmer Focus editor for his choice of deadline: Jan 25, the birthday of our national bard.

Did he not know I was presiding over the Elgin Burns Club Dinner?

I had great intentions of writing my report earlier in the week, but "The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft aglee". Hence, I am writing this very early in the morning!

We have had a truly glorious start to the new year with frost and just a covering of snow in some areas since Christmas week. Apart from the odd frozen pipe in cattle troughs the frost has done a lot more good than harm. I believe frosty weather in January is healthy weather for both crops and livestock and the month has flown by.

But our first shower of rain in 2001 fell yesterday as the frost was coming out, suddenly making it difficult to travel. The frozen ground had allowed us to apply FYM to stubble, and P and K to winter wheat. But no chemicals have been applied yet and I fear the annual meadow grass in the min-tilled field could become a real problem. Huge numbers of greylag geese are adding to the problem and a third of the field looks a bit sad. Why is the wheat so much tastier to them than the young meadow grass?

What really worries me is the potential surge into spring barley. You fellows in the south should go for big yields of feeding barley and leave the malting market to us needy souls in the north. I also urge all Scottish growers to write to your MP and demand that we also receive subsidies for growing lupins for the protein market. It looks right for us.

A boatload of imported AN has just docked nearby and, while we will have to make room indoors for it, I could not resist the price tag of £112/t in 0.5t bags. &#42

"Whats that? N for £112/t? Ill have some of that," says Morayshire grower Ron Duncan.

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