28 May 1999

READY,

STEADY, GROW

Host farmer

VINE Farm manager Tim Whiteheads competition strategy is quantity not quality. "A big pile is always going to be worth more than a small pile, even if it is feed," he says.

Equinox is his chosen variety to do that. "It has proved itself consistently high yielding, producing up to 0.75t/ha more than other varieties in local trials." To maximise yield potential drilling was early, on Sept 18, followed by a roll.

Fertiliser and herbicide policy is as they would manage the whole field, with base fertiliser applied at drilling. That may not be the winning formula, Mr Whitehead concedes. "The blackgrass on the field is patchy, but not resistant. As it happens the plots are on a relatively weed-free area, so some of the teams may get away without an autumn herbicide. But if they had been 50 yds further back it would have been a necessity," he says.

An autumn tank-mix of Javelin Gold (dff + ipu) and ipu at 2.5 litres/ha and 1.5 litres/ha respectively was applied with 0.25litres of cypermethrin for aphid control on Oct 21.

A T1 spray of Landmark (epoxiconazole + kresoxim-methyl) at 0.75litres/ha was applied on Mar 23, a hefty dose to sort out latent septoria and mildew, plus a one-hit pgr of 2.0 litres/ha of chlormequat. A total of 200kg/ha of nitrogen went on as urea either side of the T1 fungicide.

Flag leaf sprays are likely to include Landmark again, but possibly at a lower dose depending on disease pressure. So far the plot is on course for Mr Whiteheads budgeted yield of 10.3t/ha (4.2t/acre), but his budget price of £82/t does look a little bullish now, he concedes.

Total margin forecast is £195/ha.

Essex young farmers

RIALTO grown for a big yield and milling premium is the goal of Jim Powell, Jame Jolley, James Hawkes and Rob Gemill, who make up the Essex YFC Agronomy Discussion Group. Budget yield is 10.1t/ha (4.1t/acre), at a selling price of £85/t, and the team are hopeful of hitting both targets.

"It has got the bones, now it needs the flesh on it," said Mr Powell in late April.

Then the only nitrogen applied was 46kg/ha (37 units/acre) of urea which went on in mid-March. "Were holding back the rest as long as possible – it would be embarrassing if it fell over, and a lot of the other plots are too green now anyway," added Mr Hawkes.

Drilling date was Sept 24, at 300 seeds/sq m, followed by a roll and Metarex (metaldehyde) slug pellets. Platform S (carfentrazone-ethyl + mecoprop-P) went on at 0.75kg/ha on Nov 11, to sort out cleavers, plus a sniff of cypermethrin.

Half-rate Landmark was applied on Apr 14, with 0.15 litres/ha of Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) and 1.25 litres/ha chlormequat, aiming to save a pass with a one-hit pgr programme.

A three-quarter rate strobilurin is planned for flag leaf, and a T3 is more likely than not to try and maintain grain quality. But that will be on a look/see basis, they say.

To date, no grain sales have been made, though the team has one eye on the market all the time, they say.

Total margin forecast is £382/ha.

Littlington Discussion Group

THE Littlington Discussion Group all farm within 8-10 miles of the Cereals site, so they should know the local conditions. But their budget yield is the lowest at 9.0t/ha (3.6t/acre).

"Our philosophy is to use sensible inputs, not far different from what we do on farm. We have to focus on cost in this competition just as we do at home," says group member Marcus Murfitt.

Rialto, aiming for a milling market, was drilled at 300 seeds/sq m on Sept 24, followed by a roll. An autumn herbicide mix of 4.0 litres/ha ipu, 0.8 litres/ha Panther (ipu + dff), and 2.0 litres/ha Treflan (trifluralin) was applied with 0.25 litres/ha of cypermethrin and 2.0 litres/ha of liquid manganese on Nov 11, targeting blackgrass, wild oats, speedwells, cleavers and volunteer oilseed rape. At the end of April an odd cleaver had survived, but the team doubted further control would be justified.

Following 100kg/ha (80 units/acre) of nitrogen as urea on Mar 16, Landmark at 0.35 litres/ha plus chlormequat at 2.3 litres/ha and manganese sulphate at 2kg/ha were applied on Mar 31. "That should take us through to flag leaf," says Mr Murfitt.

At flag 0.5 litres/ha of Amistar (azoxystrobin) plus 0.5 litres/ha Opus was planned, and the team have budgeted for an earwash.

"We should be on course for our targets," says team member David Sharp. Forecast total margin is £219/ha

Writtle College

THE third year BSc Agriculture students were not back at College in time to choose a variety, so lecturer Ken Seal opted for Charger. "It has good disease resistance, and if they get the nitrogen right there is a chance of a premium. Its a versatile variety," he says.

It was drilled Oct 13, and the students inspected the plots twice during the autumn. No herbicide was deemed necessary as virtually no grass weeds were found, and cleavers could be tackled in the spring. Base fertilisers were also omitted.

Nitrogen went on at 40kg/ha (32 units/acre) on Apr 4, 100kg/ha (80 units/acre) at the end of April, and 60-70kg/ha (48 units/acre) was planned for flag leaf to boost protein.

Fungicides will be triazole-based due to the cost of the strobilurins. Septoria was confined to lower leaves at GS31/32 so a first treatment was timed for flag leaf emergence, probably with Opus (epoxiconazole).

While the competition is a valuable educational experience, the team and Mr Seal are aiming to win – last time the college entered, they were runners-up.

Budget yield is 10t/ha (4t/acre), at a price of £80/t. Much will depend on the premium if that figure is to be achieved, concedes Mr Seal.

Total margin forecast is £358/ha.

Huntingdon snifters

HAVING taken part in the challenge before, and won twice, the Snifters are playing the game to win. "We are trying to get the best margin, not the best yield," says team member Phillip Lea.

Budgeted yield at 9.0t/ha (3.6t/acre) is equal lowest of all the teams, but costs are under the cosh. No autumn herbicide was applied and P and K fertilisers have been left out for the one-off crop competition.

New variety Malacca is hoped to give a milling premium of £15/t, and add value to the yield. The team are still hopeful of getting close to their budget sale price of £92/t and a mid-May dose of 50-60kg/ha nitrogen as ammonium nitrate aims to boost grain protein.

That follows 66kg/ha on Apr 9, and 140kg/ha in late April. T1 fungicides were omitted, preferring to target their fungicide budget at flag leaf and ear timings in an attempt to boost bushel weights.

"We cant afford to make protective applications. We do things only as and when they are needed," says David Brown.

A flag leaf spray is planned, probably with Landmark or Mantra at 0.6-0.7litres/ha, followed up by Amistar (azoxystrobin) and possibly a low dose Folicur (tebuconazole). No pgrs are planned, aiming to capitalise on Mallaccas eight for standing power.

No total margin forecast was submitted.

Clayland farmers

SPEND as little as possible and make as much as possible is the aim of the Clayland Farmers team, a Cambs-based discussion group.

Charger was drilled at 350 seeds/sq m on Oct 13, plenty early enough in the eyes of the team. With hindsight seed rate could have been lower as there was no evidence of slugs and the crop established well.

No applications were made in the autumn, and the team are hoping to get away with Starane (fluroxypyr) in with the flag leaf spray as the only herbicide. "Weve used none yet, and theres no evidence of grass weeds," said John Rule at the end of April.

Nitrogen as urea went on at 150kg/ha (120 units/acre) in early April, to be followed by a further 50kg/ha around May 10. As planned, no T1 fungicide was needed as the crop was quite clean, bar a little septoria in the bottom of the canopy. A flag leaf spray of a good half-rate of strobilurin was programmed to keep the crop clean, plus an earwash to prolong grain fill.

Target yield is 9.25t/ha (3.7t/acre), and forecast price at £77/t is still very realistic the team believes, especially as they are growing to produce a milling sample.

Margin forecast: £218.67/ha.

First wheat after rape on a clay loam. How would you set about achieving the

highest net margin per tonne? Six local teams are trying to do just that on the

Cereals 99 site in the annual Lloyds Bank Farmer Group Challenge. But their

strategies to achieve a common goal are diverse, from growing to reap high long

term yields from the field to exploiting the one-off nature of the competition to

the full. Input levels vary enormously – could the same be done at home?

Judge for yourself at the event. Andrew Swallow reports progress to date