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24 July 1998

Up and running – and not that bad

Harvest is finally under way

across much of southern

England. Poor yields from

winter barleys are common

and quality is struggling. But

results are better than feared,

with lodged rapes surprising

many. farmers weeklys

arable reporters provide a

regional update


FINE weather last weekend saw growers start harvest in earnest, but yields and quality are mixed.

Rape is a little disappointing after last years bumper yields, but some light land barley growers are reaping the benefits of a wet season. Early indications are that nitrogens are low.

In Essex, Guy Smith is pushing ahead with the remaining rape for fear of yield losses if the weather breaks, despite Fanfare winter barley being fit. Most of his rape yielded a farm average of 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre), but crops on the marshes are much worse. Sclerotinia is blamed, probably due to a tight one-in-four rotation, he says. "Last year we got 2t/acre, this year one field was down to 1t/acre. I have never seen so many sclerotia in the tank."

Norfolk barometer grower, David Pettit, is pleased with his rape so far, but fears later pigeon damaged crops will not be so good. The first 16ha (40 acres) have done 4.7t/ha (38cwt/acre), a little up on the long-term average for the farm. A start was made on Regina barley on Monday , which was running at about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), slightly down on recent years.

At Slys Farm, North Creake in the north of the county, farm foreman, Roger Smith, had cut nearly half of the farms barley earlier this week. "Fanfare has done 2.5t/acre, that is about average for us. But last year we had 2.8t/acre." Quality on both Fanfare and the first Regina on the medium-light loam looks good, but nitrogen content is not known yet, he adds. Near Kings Lynn, Broadoak Farmings combines were moving into Halcyon barley, having finished rape on Monday. Initial nitrogens are promising at 1.3-1.5% but yields are only average, says assistant manager, Tom Gilman.

In Cambridgeshire on sandy-loam over chalk, Wilbraham Farms manager, Chris Ashcroft, was halfway through his malting barley earlier this week. "Yields are streets ahead of last year. Pipkin is doing 7.3t/ha, and Halcyon 6.9t/ha. Last year we averaged 5.9t/ha." Samples off the sandy loam over chalk soils are coming off the combine at 5-10% screenings, and white endosperm suggest nitrogens will be low, he says.

Near Royston, Regina has done 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) on Parker Farms chalky soils. At 67kg/hl specific weight, the analysis is promising, says Mervin Parker. But lodged Fighter was not looking good as the combines moved in earlier this week.

In Herts, Peter Wedds Halcyon has done 6.1t/ha (2.5t/acre), slightly below the farm average, with specific weight at 67kg/ha. Nitrogen is still to be tested, but Mr Wedd is hopeful of malting quality. Straw from the crop is being baled and carted by neighbouring turkey farmer Michael Burlton in a straw-for-muck deal.

Merchants across the region report mixed quality, but it is early days. Halcyon samples at 1.5% nitrogen and Fanfare at 1.6-1.7% are reported with many specialist growers yet to start.


UP to last weekend only about 15% of the winter barley and the odd field of oilseed rape had been harvested in southern England.

But with fair weather forecast for the east of the region little barley was expected to be left by the weekend, with a fair amount of oilseed rape cleared, too. Further west, however, where less settled conditions were forecast, harvest remains a stop-start affair.

One south-east grain merchant reports rape yields ranging from 3t/ha (24cwt/acre) to 3.9t/ha (32cwt/acre), a bit worse than last year. Barley yields and quality are nothing special, although the first Regina yielded 6.2-7.5t/ha (2.5-3t/acre), with a bushel weight of 64, 1.56% nitrogen, and 2% screenings.

Avon grower, George Gent, confirms that initial barley quality is disappointing with yields at about 7.2t/ha (3t/acre). "The crop was meant for malting, but as its quality is not wonderful and there is not much of a malting market, it will go for feed. About half of it had gone down, despite growth regulator treatment, and that spoiled its quality."

Mr Gent has greater hopes for slightly brackled Pipkin which was cut last Sunday. It yielded a fairly moderate 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) but with few discoloured or cracked grains should make a malting sample.

This week he expects to get well into his oilseed rape, mostly Apex and Lipton. It is standing reasonably well and yield looks all right.

Sternberg Farms, based at Tenterden, Kent, started harvesting oilseed rape (all Apex) last Wednesday (15th) but had cleared only about 9ha (22 acres) of the 290ha (717acres) by the weekend. It is all leaning but not excessively. Two turns round the headlands were swathed and the rest desiccated. The swathed area combined last week had a moisture content of 9-13% and the desiccated a more consistent 13%.

By Monday lunchtime 27ha (67 acres) had been cleared. Average yield was only 3.21t/ha (26cwt/acre), well below the expectation of farms manager, Tom Forsyth.

Richard Oram, who runs a 506ha (1250-acre) arable-dairy farm at Allington, near Devizes, Wilts, expected to start cutting his Pronto, Apex and Alaska oilseed rape on Friday. Although the crop is leaning rather badly, it should not present any harvesting problems. It is being direct-combined but not desiccated, to save money.

"The 100 acres of Pronto has looked superb throughout the season and I will be looking for 1.75t/acre," says Mr Oram.

On mixed farms further west the prospects are less rosy. At Curry Mallett, Somerset, for example, Justin Adams has been waiting for a dry slot to cut his 6.9ha (17 acres) of Fighter winter barley for home-feeding. Although it is still standing, he reckons it will yield on the low side, about 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) against the usual 6.8t/ha (2.75t/acre). Berry size is a bit on the small side, typical of other crops in the area, he says.


EARLY indications are of variable quality, but many farmers are achieving better yields than the disastrous results anticipated.

"We are beginning to see the effect a lack of sunshine after flowering has had on grain fill," says Robert Kerr of Glencore Grain.

"While the first crops are generally the worst, it is certainly a mixed bag at this stage. Average yields last year approached 3t/acre, but are ranging from 1.98t/acre Pastoral and just under 2t/acre Muscat to 2.7t/acre Intro this year.

"Average specific weights are several points lower at 62kg/hl. But some have tested as low as 55kg/hl."

Scott Findlay of Little Biggens Farm in Herts farms 800ha (2000 acres). "Although we are down on last years Gleam yields from 3.5t/acre to between 2.5t and 3t/acre, we are not far away from a typical average of 2.6t/acre. "Specific weight wont reach last years 70kg/hl, but we hope to meet the intervention minimum of 65kg/hl. At this stage it is not as bad as I thought.

A similar story is seen in the rape, with some lighter soils faring better than heavier ones.

"We are only just into the rape, but heavy soils are seeing a 10% reduction on last years 1.4-1.5t/acre, while some varieties on lighter soils are achieving considerably more," says Graham Young of Banks Agriculture. "One farmer on light land reports nearly 2t/acre of Synergy."

Andy Davies of Davies & Davies, Beds, is reasonably pleased with his rape harvest so far. "Contact grown on a reclaimed sand pit is yielding only slightly less than last year at 30cwt/acre. Capitol and Amber are also looking reasonably good."

Further north, Fred Myers of Leverton Farms, Lincs, has seen a fall of just 10% in his Apex grown on heavy soils, from last years 3.6t/ha (1.45t/acre) to 3.2t/ha (1.3t/acre).


THE barley harvest has only just started; OSR harvest is late and some crops have only just been swathed, many are still to be desiccated and few have been combined.

Early indications are that barley yields are down on last year with low bushel weights to match. Oilseed rape yields are average.

"Our early barley yields are 15% down on last year", says Frank Dakin of Brewers Oak, Shifnal, Shropshire. The Gleam, grown for malting, did 5.6-7.4t/ha (2.2-3t/acre), but with disappointing specific weights of 58-62 kg/hl. Melanie grown on light land gave better specific weights of 66 kg/hl, but yields still at only 5-5.6t/ha (2-2.3t/acre).

"The rape that got flattened by the snow at Easter has yielded surprisingly well at 2.8-3 t/ha (23-24 cwt/acre). The standing rape only managed 3.4 t/ha (28 cwt/acre) – down on last year.

Archie de Haan, an estate manager based near Ludlow, Shropshire says "Yields are well down on last year." Surprisingly, the Regina grown as a feed crop has yielded less at 5t/ha than the Fanfare at 6.8t/ha grown for malting. The bulk of the barley will be ready at the end of next week."

At Raby Estates, near Telford, oilseed rape is nearly finished. Apex has disappointed at just under 3t/ha (24cwt/acre), but farm manager, Andrew Lewis, has been surprised by Lipton, which has done 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre).

Overall yields will be about average, unless last-to-cut hybrids really perform.

Nearby at Much Wenlock, David Craigs rape is a week off, but 36ha (90 acres) of Fanfare had been cut earlier this week. Dried yields of 6.4t/ha are about average for the farm, but a lot down on last year, says Mr Craig.


WINTER barley yields in the south west are 1.2-1.9t/ha (0.5-0.75t/acre) down on last years and specific weights are generally are low.

Almost all the barley has had to be dried. Winter oilseed rape reports suggest reasonable yields, though periodic torrential rains may change this.

In East Dorset the Hosford family reports 4.7t/ha (1.9t/acre) of Regina barley where 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) is the norm. Take-all is blamed. Apex oilseed rape cut at the weekend yielded about 3.1 t/ha (1.25t/acre), about average, though down 1.25t/ha (10cwt/acre) on last year.

Take-all hit Archie Montgomerys winter barleys at North Cadbury, Somerset. That, late flag leaf disease and lack of sunshine account for disappointing yields of about 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) overall, he says

Also in Somerset, Richard Payne had barley fit to cut but in view of poor prices was reluctant to spend money drying it, so started direct combining, without desiccant, on Contact oilseed rape instead.

Slightly more upbeat is SW barometer grower, Stewart Hayllor, in south Devon. He finished winter barley last week. Muscat which went flat early averaged 5.6t/ha (2.25t/acre), but the last-cut two fields of Hannah produced almost 7.5t/ha (3t/acre). Judging by trailer weights specific weights were good. Moisture content ranged from 14 to 22%.

Farmer/contractor John Moss in SE Cornwall reports "dreadful crops", with widespread take-all. He expects yields to be 1.5t/ha (0.6t/acre) down overall.

Another farmer/contractor, Howard Emmett on the Roseland peninsula had three days combining last week. Gleam came off at over 5t/ha (2t/acre) at 18% moisture. Apex rape yielded about 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre). More set-aside means barley will be dropped next year.

Tony Higgins in Somerset has reached a similar conclusion. He plans to slash his barley area and grow more linseed after terrible yields. His barleys averaged 5t/ha (2t/acre), with specific weight 58-63 kg/hl. &#42

Apex coming off at 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre) on Guy Smiths Essex farm. No fungicide, herbicide or insecticide went on to the crop, keeping costs down to £75/ha (£30/acre). "It got the perfect start to life. We planted it into dust then it rained and grew like cress. Any weeds were smothered."

In-field refuelling on the Velcourt managed Braishfield Manor Estate, Hants. Pipkin barley was coming in at just over 3t/ha.

Below average yields, screenings up to 10% even after dressing, and low premiums this harvest are forcing Suffolk grower Gerald Kidner to consider dropping Halcyon. Disease and lack of sunlight are blamed.

Parker Farms new Claas Lexion 480 eats into Regina with a 9m header. Yields on the chalk farm near Royston are about average at 7.5t/ha (3t./acre) so far, says Mervin Parker.

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2 January 1998


PEAS at one stage under 150mm (6in) of water highlighted the depressing nature of 1997 for Richard Payne at Heathfield Manor Farm, near Taunton, Somerset.

Selling well forward at comparatively good prices only partly offset some of the gloom induced by the strong £ and the harvest washout.

"We experienced expensive fertiliser and chemicals, but cheap corn. Our projections for the profits from last harvest are substantially down on the previous year, even after selling better."

Lower costs, further contained by planned reductions in the use of inputs like seaweed and trace elements, make the picture for 1998 slightly rosier, he suggests. "But we are still under a lot of pressure."

Highlights of the year were the performances of spring beans and winter rape, the latter receiving no herbicide or fungicide. "But none of the wheat went for milling."

Key lessons learned are that fertiliser could have been a lot less expensive. "Hang on when buying," he advises. "It may have just been the year, but we could have had it £10-£12/t cheaper."

Fears that the new strobilurin fungicides might delay harvest appear unfounded, though the weather made that hard to prove. Their greening effect could compensate for the proposed input cuts, he hopes. "We have saved a lot on establishing pulses with our new drill." Winter beans sown directly into stubble with the Simba have had 100% germination, he notes.

Tidy farming will suffer as least cost cropping becomes the order of the day, says Somerset based south-west barometer farmer Richard Payne.

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22 August 1997


BETTER weather this week has saved the south-west harvest, with wheat yields considered acceptable but quality poor.

In Somerset, barometer grower Richard Paynes Brigadier wheat has done well, one field yielding 11.1t/ha (4.5t/acre). Hereward did 9.9t/ha (4t/acre) off the combine, but Hagberg was just 75.

About 30% of his peas, which had been under 150mm (6in) of floodwater, were lost on the ground leaving 100t off 26ha (65 acres).

In Dorset second wheats are running at about 8t/ha (3.2t/acre) and firsts 9.3t/ha (3.8t/acre) for the Hosking family. Riband is wheat of the year, with specific weights about 76kg/hl. But Hunter has disappointed and will be dropped.

ADAS consultant Bill Butler reports some winter barley still to cut in Devon, most badly sprouted. Wheat yields are fair, but specific weights poor, down to 69-71kg/hl.

In south-east Cornwall farmer/ contractor John Moss says Brigadier has done well, with Hunter not far behind, giving specific weights of 75 and 72kg/hl, respectively.

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8 August 1997


MOST combines have stood still for the past week in the south west, due to heavy rainfall.

At the start of this week there seemed little prospect of restarting.

On the Roseland peninsula in Cornwall Howard Emmett reports over 100mm (4in) in the first four days of August. Wind and rain over the weekend tangled and flattened many crops, especially oats and some of the later winter barleys which had promised heavy yields.

In Devon ADAS consultant Bill Butler reckons 95% of the winter barley had been cut and about 5% of the wheat. Blind ears due to early fusarium infection are evident. Wheat yields are typically about 6.2t/ha (50cwt/acre).

But in parts of Devon and Cornwall where drilling was delayed last autumn there is still a significant area of winter barley to cut, some even now barely ripe.

David Croxton, an agronomist who farms in South Devon and Somerset, is among the more cheerful in the region. "The star this year is undoubtedly oilseed rape. We have had consistently remarkable results. Synergy has done particularly well – one crop did over 2t/acre dried weight – and Apex has yielded up to 35cwt."

Some of the first wheats have been excellent. Estica has been reported with a specific weight of 82kg/hl. "Soissons is in the 55cwt to 3t/acre area with very good Hagberg and proteins".

With a further 50mm (2in) of rain on Tuesday Taunton-based barometer grower Richard Payne regrets not grabbing his Eiffel peas last week. "But they were still 30% moisture and would have needed a lot of drying."

In Somerset winter oilseed rape has done well for former barometer grower Andrew Hebditch at EWH Farms, Martock. Lizard and a trial of French-bred Columbus returned 4.7t/acre (1.9t/acre), but Apex managed only about 3.9t/ha (1.6t/acre), he reports. "They were all drilled at the same time and treated much the same," he notes. The farms running average is about 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre).

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1 August 1997


HARVEST remains good in parts, but disappointing overall.

Eighty per cent of the winter barleys are cut, with yields and quality medium-to-poor. Many malting samples have been rejected after failing pre-germination tests.

"Weve had barley yields below 2t/acre, but plenty over 3t," says Cornwall Farmers grain buyer Mike Hambly. "Hectolitre weights are 54-72.7kg/hl with one crop of Magie doing over 3t/acre.

"Malting barleys generally have disappointingly high N levels. The big unknown is whether they will pass pre-germination tests."

Near Lostwithiel, in south-east Cornwall, farmer/contractor Alex Stephens reports winter barleys struggling to average 5.6t/ha (2.25t/acre). But quality is not too bad. "Hanna looked poor but yielded better than expected and Fighter has done well."

WH Bond and Sons at Trerulefoot, Cornwall, have finished winter barley, averaging 5.9t/ha (2.4t/acre) of Halcyon after cleaning. The first sample tested 1.56%N.

Regina did better at 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre), but quality was poor – 58kg/hl off the combine, 63kg/hl after cleaning. Poor demand for straw means it is being chopped and spread for the first time on the farm.

At Devon Grain co-op, Cullompton, Duncan Lyons says specific weights are very variable – many in the 50s and a lot in the high 60s, but few in between.

Barometer grower Richard Payne, near Taunton, Somerset, cleared Gaelic winter barley last week, even though barely ripe. One field yielded nearly 8.6t/ha and the other 7.4t/ha (3t/acre).

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25 July 1997


WINTER barley is proving variable in all aspects – yield, quality, and fitness to combine.

Outputs are well down on last years, but hopes remain high for later crops, if the weather holds.

South-west barometer grower Richard Payne, near Taunton, Somerset, was expecting to start his winter barley about mid-week, though it was still not 100% ripe. He has finished his winter rape.

"We were rather disappointed with the yield of about 23cwt/acre or 2.8t/ha. But it was cheap to grow – no fungicides or herbicides – and the variable costs totalled only £56/acre."

Further east in Somerset, Archie Montgomery has pushed ahead with winter barley. "We have had to dry almost everything. Once it reaches 18% moisture we cut it, regardless." By Monday evening three-quarters of the crop was in. Gleam was 1.8%N, hopefully Regina will test better. Combine monitoring suggests yields are 6.9-7.2t/ha (2.8-2.9t/acre).

Near Blandford in east Dorset, Nick Harding finished winter barley over a week ago. Angora met contract at 1.75%N, but yielded only 5.6t/ha (2.25t/acre). Pipkin and Fanfare were better at 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), with 1.45-1.5%N Pipkin and 1.55%N Fanfare.

In South Devon, Michael Pearson of R Cundy and Sons reports variable winter barley, from 4.9t/ha (2t/acre) in the worst field, to nearly 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) on the best. Quality is reasonable at 66/67kg/hl.

Like many others, his crops have not ripened uniformly, so combines have moved from field to field without clearing any of them.

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27 December 1996


FOR Andrew Hebditch "consistency" is the word that sums up 1996 at EWH Farms, Martock, Somerset.

Most crops and varieties performed well and from the husbandry point of view 1997 looks promising.

"We had an excellent harvest and the high for us was the wheat yield. We did not see any real lows, just some average oilseed rape.

"This autumn we have had good, even establishment. The only real worry is the price. We want to stop politicians meddling. Perhaps not being a member of the EU would help."

A fair amount of grain has been sold – wheat at £120-£94/t. And malting barley at £120/t has given a rewarding gross margin.

"With hindsight, clearly what we should have done was sell 2000t of wheat at £120/t. Our normal policy is to sell a third forward, a third spot and to hang on to a third. But when the price drops as it has you have to act differently."

Practically, he believes, he made few mistakes in 1996. A more robust stem extension spray, possibly including a growth regulator, might have helped on the rape. "And we will probably up the rate of fungicide on our GS30/31 spray on Pipkin to make sure we get on top of rhynchosporium in future."

Winter oilseed rape seems less comfortable than cereals in the south-west, says Andrew Hebditch.

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2 August 1996


WINTER barley harvesting could drag on for another two weeks, particularly if showers persist. And many growers face lower yields with inferior quality.

Near Blandford, Dorset, Nick Harding expected to finish Pipkin winter barley by mid-week. Yields, estimated at 6.3t/ha (2.5t/acre), were down 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) on the past two years. And screenings, at up to 6%, were higher than usual. Straw yields are surprisingly good, at about 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre).

At North Cadbury, Somerset, Archie Montgomery has finished winter barley. "Yields look 3-tonnish, not quite up to last years but very acceptable considering how dry it has been."

Wessex Grain co-op, on the Somerset/Dorset border, reported little change on the week, with Puffin still showing high screenings. Pipkin yields are likely to be down. No oilseed rape had been seen by the start of the week.

Devon Grain at Cullompton was halfway through its winter barleys by Tuesday, with yields variable and moisture content "all over the place". But screenings have generally been low at about 2%.

In south-east Cornwall Alex Stephens has finished Puffin and Pastoral but has a lot of contract combining awaiting fit crops. Puffin has done well, yields about normal at 5.6-6.3t/ha (2.3-2.5t/acre). Some rather pinched samples were the result of failure to control Rhynchpsorium.

Straw yield has been excellent and local demand is strong at £148-£173/ha (£60-70/acre) behind the combine.

Barometer grower Andrew Hebditch, near Martock, Somerset, has had true stop/go harvesting of swathed Apex rape. Yield has averaged 3.1-3.5t/ha (25-28cwt/acre), with moisture from 7-14%. Some Soissons wheat could be ready by the end of the week, he adds.

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25 August 1995


THIS week saw the last of the spring-sown crops combined apart from some late linseed and flax. Hard ground and lack of moisture are holding up progress drilling next years winter crops.

Barometer grower Jeremy Walker in Somerset finished his spring oilseed rape last Friday. One piece yielded about 2.5t/ha (1t/acre), the other a bit less. None needed drying.

He is now trying to guess whether to wear out a lot of metal working very hard ground in order to sow oilseed rape, winter linseed, grass seeds and perhaps stubble turnips or wait until it rains.

Meanwhile he is hedge cutting and kept busy loading out seed corn and moving other batches from makeshift stores.

Archie Montgomery at North Cadbury, Somerset, is disappointed with spring bean yields at 3.7-4.4t/ha (30-35cwt/acre). The plant population was too high for the dry season and many pods aborted. Wheats have varied from just over 7.5 to over 10 t/ha (3 to over 4t/ acre). Linseed sown in early May will not be ready for 10 days.

Wessex Grain manager Malcolm Shepherd reports spring oilseed rape typically yielding about 1.9 t/ha (15cwt/acre) and industrial rape about the same.

The last of the spring barleys in the west of the region were expected to be cleared up this week. On the Cornwall/Devon border yields of 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) have been common, better in some cases than winter varieties.

According to Bill Butler of ADAS, spring oilseed rapes in Devon have in general yielded better than winter crops, with the odd crop up to 3.2t/ha (26cwt/acre) and many about 2.5t/ha (1t/acre).

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11 August 1995


EASY harvesting and better than expected yields considering the lack of rain are the highlights.

In Somerset barometer grower Jeremy Walker had ideal conditions for direct-combining ryegrass herbage seed, the straw soon being snapped up.

He has finished wheats and combined some for neighbours. Riband did better than expected, varying from field to field, but averaging 8.2t/ha (3.25t/acre). A neighbours did nearly 10t/ha (4t/acre). Brigadier gave just over 7.5t/ha (3t/acre).

Spring rape should be ready next week, and linseed is drying so quickly he is tempted not to desiccate.

"Its just like 1976 but with better yields – everything is ready at once," says Ted Bird of West Country Grain co-op. Most members are surprised by cereal yields even though they are not as good as last years.

"We have goodish oilseed rape yields and some very pretty milling wheats and malting barleys." Oat yields and specific weights are down but still meeting export specifications.

Wessex Grains Malcolm Shepherd reports variable but generally good wheat yields, with milling varieties often "a bit pinched". Oilseed rape and pea output is mostly good though some crops have needed drying.

At Trerulefoot, Cornwall, WH Bond and Sons have finished combining apart from spring oilseed rape and "promising and remarkably early" lupins.

Spring beans in LIFE trials, cut on Aug 5 having "died on their feet", gave only 2t/ha (16cwt/acre). But wheat, barley and oats averages are up on last years.

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4 August 1995


EXCEPTIONALLY good weather, apart from thunderstorms, has meant a cheap and easy harvest so far, though yields are as variable as ever.

Barometer grower Jeremy Walker in Somerset has made such good progress that he is running out of floor space for storage. Wheats are normally not ready before the seed barleys. But this year they are early and combining was expected to start on Tuesday. Herbage seed was also ready.

His oilseed rapes shattered little despite thunderstorms, and he estimates yields at 3.1-3.7t/ha (25-30cwt/acre) cut at 8.5-11% moisture. Apex stood very well, Alaska less so – but both were easily direct-combined. He feels the "better-than-usual" yields may have come from using sulphate of ammonia to supply both N and S, and/or the early-flower fungicide.

As predicted, some Soissons was well down on yield at about 6.3t/ha (50cwt/acre) with very pinched grain. At one stage the moisture was down to 13.5%.

But his Greenshaft peas for seed have done well – probably over 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre).

ADAS consultant Bill Butler reports slightly lower yields than last year but better margins because crops have been harvested dry.

"There have been some phenomenal barley yields around Honiton and Exeter, and in parts of south Devon."

Big yields of winter oats have been recorded. But low specific weights are common and some early wheats have been disappointing, he adds.

"Peas are only just getting started. Ive seen good-looking crops yield 1.25-1.5t/acre of straw but only 1.25t of peas."

Farmer/contractor John Moss in south-east Cornwall was halfway through his 800ha (2000-acre) harvest at the start of this week and had hardly used a drier. He expected to start winter wheats midweek.

His continuing disappointment with Intro barley yields this year was reinforced when a piece of Fighter in the middle of an Intro field gave 0.8t/ha (0.3t/acre) more. "It had identical treatment in the same field, but every time the combine got into it the yield monitor shot up."

Winter oilseed rapes in his area have done "exceptionally well", and he expects to start spring varieties this week.

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28 July 1995


EXCELLENT progress has been made with gathering the south-wests winter barleys and oilseed rape, and a start has been made on early wheats, peas and oats.

Barometer grower Jeremy Walker in Somerset began combining on July 19 at 17.5% moisture and by Monday night, with the crop down to 12.5%, expected to have his barleys finished in less than two days.

Having five varieties for seed involved delays for cleaning the combine and equipment between fields.

Oilseed rape was ready and he hoped forecast thunderstorms would miss his area. Rooks had damaged the peas, which were almost fit and would be followed immediately by the wheat.

Apart from one field affected by BYDV, barley straw and grain yields have been good. Intro produced 5t/ha (2t/acre) of straw and over 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) of very bold grain. Fighter yields have been similar. Sunrise was lower at about 7.2t/ha (2.9t/acre), though with "a very nice sample". Marinka, although outclassed, yielded as well as any variety, again with a good sample.

But wheats are shrivelling fast and Mr Walker is pessimistic about their prospects.

In south Devon R Cundy and Son are having "the oddest harvest ever". MD Michael Pearson says "We are cutting oats before the barley is finished. The normally early fields arent coming first this year and yields are variable for no immediately obvious reason – probably soil type and a very wet winter.

"The Plympton end has averaged 2.9t/acre, ranging from 2.25-3.5. A trial area of Gaelic did all right here, though I gather it has suffered from late frost in some places. Rape was 18% moisture five days ago, last night it was 8%."

In south-east Cornwall John Moss is disappointed with both straw output and grain yield -5.65t/ha (2.25t/acre) from Intro on land at Antony. It is an area notorious for BYDV but that was not the complete explanation, he feels. Elsewhere his Pastoral at 7t/ha (2.8t/acre) and Fighter at 6.4t/ha (2.5t/acre) were much better.

Green tillers in otherwise ripe barleys have been common in the region and delayed Archie Montgomerys start of harvest at North Cadbury in Somerset. His yields include Gaelic at 7.8-8t/ha (3.1-3.2t/acre) and Puffin at 6.9t/ha (2.7t/acre).

"The Puffin was a bit shrivelled due to what the Germans call emergency ripening."

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21 July 1995


WINTER barley has been cut but showery weather and moist air means most crops are still waiting.

Barometer farmer Jeremy Walker in Somerset hoped to start barley last weekend but was rained off. With the crop only just ready he decided not to snatch fields between the showers. But that will change. "We have a lot of winter barley and most of it is for seed, so we need to get moving soon."

In south-east Cornwall farmer/ contractor John Moss cut 20ha (50 acres) that had "given up" on light land a fortnight ago. But most crops are still at 18-19% moisture. Snatching some Puffin on Monday evening his yield monitor indicated 6.2-6.4t/ha (2.5-2.6t/acre), testing at 72kg/hl specific weight.

Yields are likely to be slightly down on last year, he feels. But he is more concerned about wheat, which though standing well and clean, suffered dry weather three weeks too soon.

Further into Cornwall farmer/ contractor Howard Emmett is concerned about unusually high levels of Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus, even in crops sprayed against aphids last autumn. Yields could be 25% down.

In east Dorset Nick Harding decided to start Pipkin at 19%mc at the weekend. It averaged about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre).

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16 June 1995


MOBILE again after his hip operation, Jeremy Walker is "fairly hopeful for a reasonable harvest" at Haddon Farm, North Petherton, Somerset.

"We could probably do with a bit more moisture. The wind keeps blowing it off."

Most pressing job over the weekend was to spray the pea crop grown for seed. The variety Greenshaft, used for vining and by gardeners, tends to have a lot of leaf and develops a "sweaty undergrowth". "Its important to keep it clean," he says. Bravocarb (carbendazim + chlorothalonil) is "pretty good" against botrytis and mycosphaerella, but Aphox (pirimicarb) would also be needed to control aphids. "Weve found a few."

Another job scheduled for when the wind dropped was spraying spring rape against pollen beetle with Ripcord (cypermethrin). The crop, next door to some winter rape, was already well above the treatment threshold, he notes.

Earlier 0.5 litres/ha (0.4pt/acre) of Tilt (propiconazole) fungicide had been applied to the late heading ryegrass herbage seed crop. The technique is fast becoming common practice, says Mr Walker. "It makes harvesting a lot cleaner."

Weed control in the linseed, also for seed, has been achieved with Jubilee (metsulfuron-methyl) for the broad-leaves and some Laser (cycloxydim) for wild oats. "Last year we went on a bit late, so we went in a bit earlier this time to knock them on the head."

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19 May 1995


DESPITE advice to apply wheat flag-leaf sprays sooner rather than later, Jeremy Walker avoided the temptation to do more than was strictly necessary before his Monday hospital appointment for a hip replacement.

Only the crop of Soissons at Haddon Farm, North Petherton, Somerset, was forward enough to merit its second fungicide – an Alto (cyproconazole) plus Jupital (chlorothalonil) mix after an earlier application of Sportak (prochloraz) at GS31 (first node).

Precautionary spray

Nearly all the barleys, however, had had a "precautionary" awn emergence spray of Punch C (carbendazim + flusilazole) against rhynchosporium and net blotch.

"Both ADAS and my independent consultant Trevor Beanland from Bridgwater say we should go slightly early rather than late with flag leaf treatments, especially when crops are growing fast and can absorb the chemicals."

But apart from a bit of mildew on some Brigadier wheat in the shelter of a wood, most of the farms 90ha (224 acres) of cereals, all winter-sown, are "pretty clean".

When the flag-leaf treatment eventually does go on it will probably be a mix of Tern (fenpropidin) and Folicur (tebuconazole) for the Brigadier. "The Riband will have Alto/Bravo for good septoria control," says Mr Walker.

Apex and Alaska oilseed rape had a "reduced rate Compass/ mbc" fungicide spray at early flowering. "I like to go early to avoid crop damage." Dry weather should, hopefully, avoid the need for a follow up treatment.

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28 April 1995


SPRING crops – peas, linseed and oilseed rape – at Haddon Farm, North Petherton, Somerset, are all emerging quite well, and field work is pretty well up to date, according to Jeremy Walker.

It is just as well, he notes. "Im trying to get all the work sorted out – Im having a hip replacement in mid-May."

Most of the autumn-sown crops came through the winter well. "But Ive got some ropy herbage seed which weve had to patch up because of slugs." He believes the problem may stem from oilseed rape grown in the same field two seasons ago.

Cereals have been left with "no major weed problems" after receiving Panther (diflufenican + isoproturon) in the autumn. Main remaining threat to the seed crops are headland cleavers which will soon be tackled with a "quarter-boom width" spray of Starane (fluroxypyr).

Frost and cold has "slowed things down a bit". More importantly, perhaps, some of the latest top-dressings – of granular urea – hung about on the dry soil surface for as much as a week after application.

"We only had a few odd showers of hail."

Despite dry weather there have been few signs of flea beetle on the spring rape or linseed, he notes.

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