29 October 1999

Speedy works the key on Lincs site

FAST workrates are proving a real boon for autumn-sown cereal management this year at Nocton Limited, host to Cereals 2000, next years national combinable crops event.

Drilling was 73% done by Monday and herbicide spraying 50% finished. Slug damage is non-existent thanks to well consolidated seed-beds and pre-drill baiting early on, but over-thick early drilled wheats are causing some concern.

"We are well up with the work this year compared with last when we were only 49% drilled by the same time," says farms manager, Martin Reams. Key to the success is high output equipment on the 2830ha (6986-acre) farm.

The 6m (20ft) Vaderstad drill working at up to 10.5mph got things off to a good start (Arable, Oct 1). Now the 24m(79ft) Househam Imp self-propelled Terra-tyred sprayer working at up to 150ha (370 acres) a day is making the most of the early start to stay on top of a planned total autumn cereal area of 973ha (2400 acres).

"We make sure there is nothing to limit the sprayer workrate. Chemical will be in stores around the farm ready for use and the sprayer never has more than three-quarters of a mile to travel to refill. If needs be we will have a bowser on hand, but most of the time there is a static tank nearby," says Mr Reams.

Working at up to 9mph with a water rate of 100 litres/ha (9gal/acre) means careful attention is paid to sprayer settings and nozzle choice. "But so long as you have it set right you can get the spray quality the label demands," says sprayer operator, Keith Hewitt.

Main herbicide targets are annual meadow grass plus cleavers, plus wild oats, with most fields receiving Avadex (tri-allate) on 12m (39ft) headlands and 24m around telegraph poles to stop sterile brome.

Field sprays are mainly isoproturon plus Stomp (pendimethalin), rates varying from 3 litres/ha (2.1pt/acre) of each on heavyland with blackgrass, to just 1 litre/ha and 2.5 litres/ha, respectively, on lighter ground where annual meadowgrass and broad-leaved weeds are the main concern.

Costs are down 17% thanks to lower product prices.

Some fields may get ipu plus trifluralin, but a 12-month restriction on following beet, which Mr Reams considers a minimum, limits its use. "For the same reason we avoid sulfonyl-ureas, which becomes a particular problem when we are looking to control volunteer beet in the spring."

Blackgrass is rare, but the few fields with a problem have big problems. Lexus was tried under adverse conditions last year, but failed to give satisfactory results.

"We want to hit the weed hard, so we have juggled the rotation so those fields are in beet or set-aside next year," says Mr Reams.

Over-proud Consort drilled at 140 seeds a sq m on the heath means the rate will be dropped to 100/sq m next year. Mr Reames is also tempted to move towards even more early drilling. "Sitting here on a rainy day in October I have to say that I would like to go beyond this years 30% early sowing. We have got the sprayer capacity to keep on top of spring management and nothing lodged this last year." &#42

Muds a nuisance

Poor ploughing weather last autumn means clod and mud is a big problem this year, causing several rejections already and prompting the purchase of a second, more aggressive cleaner.

Tares are down to 7% tops and 8% soil now, but we would like to be lower still," says Mr Reams. After a shaky start adjusted yields have climbed to give 22% quota delivered from 19% lifted. Total area was cut 13% to 454ha (1122 acres) to avoid C-beet. New varieties look promising, a trial field yielding 52t/ha (21t/acre) adjusted, Wildcat looking particularly good with 19.2% sugar.