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Simon Wadlow

20 November 1998

Simon Wadlow

Simon Wadlow farms 200ha

(500 acres) at The Croft,

near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Key crops are winter wheat

and sugar beet, plus winter

oats, barley, oilseed rape

and beans. Forage maize,

set-aside and pasture make

up the balance

YET another month has passed which has been dominated by the weather. We have had 111mm (4.4in) of rain in the last four weeks and planting is still not complete.

Two fields of winter beans were planned, but a drainage problem means only one is planted. We will have to sow spring beans instead. Fortunately the unused seed had only been cleaned and not dressed so it will not be wasted.

The six-row beet harvester came for its second visit on a particularly wet day at the end of Oct. Both fields are on a slope and the lower headlands sustained a lot of soil damage. As a result these will have to be set-aside, taking a 20m (66ft) strip out of the Charger wheat we are now drilling.

As expected, the sugar beet yield has improved considerably since early liftings. Sugar percentage is 1.6% up, giving an adjusted yield of 50t/ha (20.2t/acre). As I said last year, the early delivery bonus is not high enough.

I hope the slug war has been won. Wheat after oilseed rape has been thinned in limited areas but is basically all right, and part of a field of barley had to have an extra half rate of Draza (methiocarb). Otherwise early pelleting and liberal use of the roll have kept on top of the pest.

Unfortunately, on one field where I was a little too enthusiastic with the roll, 5cm (2in) of rain followed and left the headlands sealed with a lot of wheel marks showing. I hope it levels up by spring.

When I started writing this column last year I thought arable farming was on the bottom. Today, as I hang up my pen for farmers weekly, prices are the same or even lower. I have a feeling this really is the bottom of the cycle. I just hope I am right this time.

Some headlands after beet will have to be set-aside, says Shropshire grower Simon Wadlow. Signing off after a year of Farmer Focus writing he now hopes the only way is up for the industry.

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Simon Wadlow

8 May 1998

Simon Wadlow

Simon Wadlow farms 200ha

(500 acres) at The Croft,

near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Key crops are winter wheat

and sugar beet, plus winter

oats, barley, oilseed rape

and beans. Forage maize,

set-aside and pasture make

up the balance

Simon Wadlow farms 200ha

(500 acres) at The Croft,

near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Key crops are winter wheat

and sugar beet, plus winter

oats, barley, oilseed rape

and beans. Forage maize,

set-aside and pasture make

up the balance

WHAT a month it has been! We had 58mm (2.3in) of rain in the first 10 days of April, followed by frost and snow.

Arable work was impossible until Apr 14, when we were able to apply the second split of nitrogen to the winter wheat.

Consort following beans received 110kg/ha (88 units/acre), which, after the first application, brings the total to 150kg/ha (120 units/acre), all that we had intended. In view of the recent weather I am wondering if we should give it some more.

Other wheats were given 100kg/ha (80 units/acre) with the intention of making a third application this week.

This little burst of activity was followed by a further 25mm (1in) of rain over several days and it was not until Apr 25 that we could get the sprayer out. All cereals needed spraying.

Top priority was to get 2.25 litres/ha of chlormequat along with Tilt (propiconazole) at 0.3 litres/ha onto the Aintree oats where the second node was well and truly detectable. By Apr 29 all wheat and barley had been sprayed with a fungicide and, where required, with either Cheetah S (fenoxaprop-ethyl) at 0.75 litres/ha or Grasp (tralkoxydim) with Output additive at 1 and 0.75 litres/ha, respectively, to control volunteer oats.

Our sugar beet drill is mounted on the back of the power harrow. With a front mounted press/spring tine combination we normally go from furrow to sown in one pass. Sadly, there is not enough frost mould for that to work this year, and an extra pass with the power harrow has been required.

It was not until Apr 29 that we began beet drilling. Zulu was sown at 19cm (7.5in) spacing on 51cm (20in) rows and the completed field looks quite respectable. We now hope the weather holds so that sowing can be completed without further delay. &#42

Simon Wadlows machinery saw only short bursts of activity during April. Beet sowing was delayed until the end of the month.

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Simon Wadlow

10 April 1998

Simon Wadlow

Simon Wadlow farms 200ha

(500 acres) at The Croft,

near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Key crops are winter wheat

and sugar beet, plus winter

oats, barley, oilseed rape

and beans. Fo

first two weeks of the month we did not start until Mar 16.

The oats eventually received 0.5 litres/ha of Mistral (fenpropimorph) to control a heavy attack of mildew. Ally (metsulfuron-methyl) and Eagle (amidosulfuron) were added at 15 and 30g/ha, respectively, for broad-leaved weeds.

Due to the extremely wet autumn we left several fields unsprayed until the spring. But by adding the appropriate product to control a variety of broad-leaved weeds or volunteer beans we probably saved a pass with the sprayer when these fields were finally treated.

Ever since I started to grow winter beans 1 litre/ha of simazine applied after sowing has been all the weed control needed. But this year one field came through the winter with such a high population of cleavers that 2 litres/ha of Basagran (bentazone) had to be applied.

The oilseed rape has had 0.5 litres/ha of Folicur (tebuconazole) to control light leaf spot and help prevent lodging. This crop is on the heaviest part of the farm, and to my inexperienced eye generally looked quite well. But too much of the headlands had small and stunted plants, caused by water-logging. Next year I must avoid compacting the headlands when preparing the seed-bed.

Having only one full-time man on the farm where I usually have two, I felt fully justified when last week I got a friend to help with the spraying. All the wheat and barley has now had chlormequat and weed control is up to date.

With so much sugar beet already sown, I hardly dare admit that we still had not started at the end of March. Our winter-ploughed heavier land has been slow to dry and, although tempted, I have so far been patient. &#42

Simon Wadlows early nitrogen dressings have been timely this season, but wet weather more recently has interfered with spraying programmes.

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Simon Wadlow

13 March 1998

Simon Wadlow

Simon Wadlow farms 200ha

(500 acres) at The Croft,

near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Key crops are winter wheat

and sugar beet, plus winter

oats, barley, oilseed rape

and beans. Forage maize,

set-aside and pasture make

up the balance

AFTER all the rain of early January I was anxious – probably too anxious – to make use of the much improved ground conditions.

During the second week of February the Lipton oilseed rape received 75kg/ha (60 units/acre) of nitrogen and one field of Regina winter barley, which had been suffering from slug damage, received 50kg/ha (40 units/acre). This field has already improved, with only a few small bald patches now showing.

At the end of the month it was still dry and ground conditions were perfect, so I decided to complete the early application of nitrogen, although it was a little earlier than I had been advised.

The winter barley, all Regina, was given 110kg/ha (88 units/acre), which is all it will get. I do wonder if I am right to sacrifice yield for malting quality in the present market.

The winter wheat received either 40 or 50kg/ha (32 or 40 units/acre) depending on previous cropping. After giving the grassland its initial dose of fertiliser we swapped the fertiliser spreader for the sprayer on the Agribuggy. But the last few days have brought wind, rain and frost, so no spraying had been done by the end of last week.

The mild winter has left the winter oats, sown at the end of September, very forward. They are in dire need of Corbel (fenpropimorph) at 0.5 litres/ha to control mildew.

A few weeks ago our agronomist arranged a talk on Assured Combinable Crops. While I was relieved to hear it demands little more than current good practice, it is going to cost me an hour or so each week in time and it will require me to spend a certain amount of money on bird proofing, etc. This comes at a time when we have never been under so much pressure.

When I am disadvantaged by not being a member I will join. &#42

View of the month… Getting early nitrogen on to rape and slug-hit winter barley in early February, and the main dressing on to the rest of the barley at the end of the month, has been the priority for Simon Wadlow.

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Simon Wadlow

13 February 1998

Simon Wadlow

Simon Wadlow farms 200ha

(500 acres) at The Croft,

near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Key crops are winter wheat

and sugar beet, plus winter

oats, barley, oilseed rape

and beans. Forage maize,

set-aside and pasture make

up the balance

L AST month I finished by saying I felt very indecisive about grain marketing. After convincing myself that we are unlikely to see much, if any, improvement on current prices for the remainder of this marketing year, I took the bull by the horns and sold 50t of feed barley for January delivery and 100t of Consort winter wheat for February movement.

Prices have since slipped £2/t or so, but at these levels that gives me no satisfaction.

Just as I was waiting for Sir David Naish to address the NFU at the mass rally in London in January, my wife rang on the mobile phone. A load of barley had been rejected because of insects – should we have it back or have it cleaned and redirected as near to Liverpool as possible? I agreed to the latter.

Never before had I had trouble with insects in store and I was cursing my complacency for not monitoring the store more carefully. I resigned myself to a claim from the merchant.

However, I was not prepared for the claim that did arrive – £15.25/t. This was made up of £4.50 for cleaning (not cheap but acceptable) and £10.75 for transport.

So far, I have not discovered how far it was moved. But I intend to. Is it right that merchants can submit large claims without more explanation? Or are we being taken for a ride as well as our grain?

Sugar beet deliveries were completed on schedule and with sugar content holding up remarkably well. Our quota has been exceeded by more than predicted, so it is good to see British Sugar has blocked more C quota sugar, giving us £2/t more for C quota beet.

I now have the fertiliser recommendations for the coming season from our agronomist. By the time I make my next contribution I hope a start will have been made. &#42

Furious with Europe and furious with merchants too. A £15.25/t deduction for insect-contaminated grain angered Simon Wadlow. Finding out how the costs built up is proving far too difficult, he says.

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Simon Wadlow

16 January 1998

Simon Wadlow

Simon Wadlow farms 200ha

(500 acres) at The Croft,

near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Key crops are winter wheat

and sugar beet, plus winter

oats, barley, oilseed rape

and beans. Forage maize,

set-aside and pasture make

up the balance

NO sooner had I written lasts months diary than the weather improved and spraying was completed in conditions that were quite passable, if not ideal.

The oilseed rape received Falcon (propaquizafop) at 0.5 litres/ha to remove a small amount of volunteer barley. I use an independent agronomist for advice on all my arable inputs, and in the case of the oilseed rape I will depend on him entirely, as this is my first attempt at growing it.

At the moment it looks reasonably well, but the pigeons have not started on it yet and I do not know how it will stand up to the severe waterlogging it is suffering at the moment.

As soon as the sugar beet tops had wilted for a week we put our remaining store lambs on to what had been our last field. Despite the extremely wet conditions the lambs have done quite well and I hope we will be able to make a draw of fat lambs next week. They will have to be taken off the tops by Jan 15, as the field is destined for set-aside next year.

Just before Christmas our haulier moved 300t of beet. This took us over quota by more than 20%, which is probably prudent. But with 200t still to be delivered I am going to be 40% over quota; ridiculous at £10 to £12/t net for C beet. I must cut my beet acreage back for next year.

Unlike last year there appears to be some demand for straw and we have managed to sell about 100t in the past few weeks, some of it through our local machinery ring.

I normally like to make use of the quiet winter months loading grain, but at the moment I have none sold and I am feeling indecisive about what I should do at current prices.

Simon Wadlow has been reluctant to sell grain at current low prices. While cereals stay in the barn, beet deliveries continue apace. Final tonnage will be well over quota, prompting a reduction in beet area next season.

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