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Stephen Bumstead

2 August 2002

Stephen Bumstead

Steve Bumstead farms

148ha (365 acre) from

Ouse Bank Farm, Great

Barford, Beds. He is a first

generation farmer and

council tenant, growing

combinable crops on three

blocks of land. He supports

LEAF and is the FWAG

county treasurer

WE have no barley this year so havent started harvest yet. However, we hope to have a go at Malacca winter wheat next week.

I have to grit my teeth when I think of the optimum nitrogen rate for this variety. A few weeks ago I thought my five fields looked of only average potential. So I took an executive decision not to apply more than a total of 210kg/ha (172 units/acre) of ammonium nitrate.

In hindsight I wish I had gone with an extra 34kg/ha (28 units/acre). Option, which was much more pleasing to the eye, and some scruffy looking Xi19, did get this extra dollop. The result of this learned self-administered advice will be revealed soon enough.

A few weeks ago we had, and passed, our yearly ACCS inspection. All of the markets that I sell into demand it but I remain unconvinced of its value to the consumer, especially as my assured wheat will no doubt be blended with imported non-assured grain from an unknown source before reaching retail shelves.

The grain trade is convinced we are on the threshold of a massive wheat harvest. Fair enough, and I hope my harvest is huge too. But what gets my goat is that they have the audacity to chastise farmers for creating this big heap, a heap which presents them with a great opportunity to earn as much money as their trading ability allows.

Their marketing margin has not dropped in unison with ex-farm prices. Is it any wonder they are desperately clinging on to the grossly one-sided UKASTA no 1 contract? All I ask is that they show a bit more enthusiasm about the business. They should at least try to emulate the enthusiasm of the Bavarian sports saloon salesmen who will no doubt ultimately benefit from their increased turnover.

There is a lot of talk of a "15t/ha club". How do I join? Only being able to produce a paltry 10t/ha (4t/acre) at best does that mean I am an under achiever? &#42

A big wheat crop means a big marketing opportunity for the trade, so why dont they show some enthusiasm, says Stephen Bumstead.

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Stephen Bumstead

14 December 2001

Stephen Bumstead

Stephen Bumstead farms

148ha (365 acre) from Ouse

Bank Farm, Great Barford,

Beds. He is a first

generation farmer and

council tenant, growing

combinable crops on three

blocks of land. He supports

LEAF and is the FWAG

county treasurer

THE season of overindulgence and feeding your face is almost upon us, which sets me thinking how can we as farmers obtain a fairer share of the price the consumer pays?

As a bulk commodity producer, I always feel our first "customer" is keeping me at arms length from the end-user in the market. Unless something goes wrong, of course.

I would like to see food chain partnerships formed with each link receiving a viable return for their commitment. Utopia? Maybe. Feasible? Yes – if we can deduct greed from the equation.

Large merchant traders will shoot me down in flames for this argument, claiming grain is traded on price alone. If that is fact then the public must be told that while we UK producers jump through ever tightening assurance hoops, certain traders are rumoured to be importing non-assured grain just to put a ceiling on the home market.

Is it any wonder we are not seeing the price levels the experts predicted? Taking into account delayed IACS payments, these traders anticipate forced cash-flow sales pushing markets down further. They are also talking next seasons market down, having consulted their crystal balls and seen a massive exportable surplus.

Seething yet? I am. It is time to get even. Contact your local grain co-operative and challenge it to obtain the best possible return. Our government has turned its back on arable farming so we must all help ourselves now. Only 30% of all grain is traded through farmer controlled businesses. Surely, if this figure was nearer 70%, farm incomes would rise.

We are battling on between wet spells trying to get drilled up, but our largest tractor is needed for most tasks. That means much switching of implements – a time consuming and filthy job. Hence I am looking for an additional 150hp machine to make life less stressful. Oh, by the way, for the grain traders reading, my IACS payment has just arrived. &#42

Contact your local grain co-op and challenge it to make the best price, says a seething Stephen Bumstead.

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Stephen Bumstead

16 November 2001

Stephen Bumstead

Stephen Bumstead farms

148ha (365 acre) from Ouse

Bank Farm, Great Barford,

Beds. He is a first

generation farmer and

council tenant, growing

combinable crops on three

blocks of land. He supports

LEAF and is the FWAG

county treasurer

PATIENCE and benign weather are in great need just now. I am amazed by the population of grassweeds that have germinated on the shallow-cultivated stubble and up to a couple of weeks ago they were still coming through.

But the problem is these fields are only just becoming dry enough for the sprayer to travel on with out bad rutting let alone drill, and we still have the wind-speed to worry about.

To get the soil to dry enough to drill I will have to move it with the triple Ks or plough then combi-drill. But of course then I will be replenishing the seed-bed with more weed seeds. Catch 22.

Of course the agronomists answer was to drill earlier, but as there were spring crops waiting to be harvested in September there was not a lot I could do.

And yes, I know what I said last month about going over to a more min-till regime. I will never get rid of my ploughs and we have just refurbished the five-furrow. What fun that was! I still have the scars on my hands and have only just found all of the spanners thrown in fits of rage.

I have been lucky enough to secure a place on a BASIS course in Norfolk. For a couple of years or so now I have been wanting to attend and my bluff was finally called a month ago when the ultra-efficient Anne-Marie Hamilton of Beds County Training told me of a cancellation place available on a course starting that next week. With three-quarter funding available, in my mind there was no question of ignoring such a golden opportunity.

Having taken the profit from autumn wheat seed sales, especially Group 3 varieties, isnt it funny how the merchant trade are now moaning at the prospect of a "huge" 2002 harvest. Excuse me, but if the sales force in any other industry made such a negative statement it would be grounds for instant dismissal. &#42

Steve Bumstead is studying for BASIS having landed a last minute place on a course.

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Stephen Bumstead

19 October 2001

Stephen Bumstead

Stephen Bumstead farms

148ha (365 acre) from Ouse

Bank Farm, Great Barford,

Beds. He is a first

generation farmer and

council tenant, growing

combinable crops on three

blocks of land. He supports

LEAF and is the FWAG

county treasurer

LATE September gave us absolutely dreadful local weather and we are still trying to tidy up our harvest.

Tackling flat and weedy late-sown spring barley is very frustrating with weather fronts moving through so quickly and frequently.

Trying to find an accurate forecast is a mammoth task in itself. The celebrity television forecasters get it totally wrong more often than not and even internet websites are not consistent. It must be one of those "freak weather patterns" we are experiencing.

Min-till seems to be order of the day in many arable areas but not around here. In this part of Beds ploughing still rules supreme, a slow job that I hate. There are so many adjustments, so many wearing parts and I get so bored – not to mention trying to keep a straight furrow. Like others round here I prefer to follow the earths curvature.

In August I had a Howard Delta stubble cultivator on demonstration which I have now bought. Two passes with its winged tines, levelling discs and cage roller produce a respectable seed-bed for our triple "K" tined combination drill on our soils. The only snag is I now need pre-drilling glyphosate – the weed and volunteer chit is just magnificent. So far wheat establishment by this method, at 200-250 seeds/ sq m, seems good but only time will tell, especially as we have never had to use slug pellets in the past.

Wheats this year are Malacca and Option. Nothing was drilled ultra early because of our latish harvest but I still hope to complete drilling before mid-November – weather permitting of course.

A farmers son who writes in a regional farming magazine has been chastising those who bemoan the strength of sterling, weather and the governments bad attitude towards the farming industry. He is about to dispense pearls of wisdom regarding how to develop our businesses. This I cannot wait to see. As every farm worker knows, the best farmer in the world is the farmers son. &#42

"I hate ploughing," says Stephen Bumstead in Beds. A new cultivator seems to be a solution but the proof will come next harvest, he says.

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Stephen Bumstead

27 July 2001

Stephen Bumstead

Stephen Bumstead farms

148ha (365 acre) from Ouse

Bank Farm, Great Barford,

Beds. He is a first

generation farmer and

council tenant, growing

combinable crops on three

blocks of land. He supports

LEAF and is the FWAG

county treasurer

THE rain arrived and my parched spring crops lapped it up. It was desperately needed but would have been timelier had it arrived two weeks earlier. Now the question is:Does the weather know when to turn off the tap?

However, both wheat and barley have benefited greatly, especially the later drilled fields. Most of these later established crops had just one fungicide – 0.25 litres/ha of Mantra (kresoxim-methyl + epoxiconazole + fenpropimorph) on the wheat at ear emergence and 0.3 litres/ha of Corbel (fenpropimorph) plus 0.3 litres/ha of Amistar (azoxystrobin) for Optic barley at awns visible. Unless the weather stays wet for the next fortnight, those treatments will see us through to harvest.

Over the past month, I have been monitoring orange blossom midge and general aphid activity. Although pockets of the midge were spotted they were confined to headlands bordering the River Ouse and tree sheltered areas. Treatment was, of course, out of the question.

Meanwhile, the numerous aphid predators residing in our field margins are dining out on pre-threshold numbers of aphids saving me money and a sprayer pass. You dont keep a dog and bark yourself, as they say.

The silly season is almost here. Freak hailstorms forecast to coincide with oilseed rape swathing, politicians doing and saying daft things and arable farmers getting ready for the harvest and autumn drilling campaign. Meanwhile, the urban population takes a break overseas on the back of the over-valued £.

Top of my list in the silly stakes are the senior grain traders employed by one or two of the larger merchants. You can set your clock by them. Every year, in late June/early July they insist there are bumper crops out there.

Viewed from a Bavarian sports saloon with ultra low-profile tyres passing by at high speed even my thin-stand wheat crops would look barn busters. I fear the view from the combine will be rather different. &#42

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Stephen Bumstead

1 June 2001

Stephen Bumstead

Stephen Bumstead farms

148ha (365 acre) from Ouse

Bank Farm, Great Barford,

Beds. He is a first

generation farmer and

council tenant, growing

combinable crops on three

blocks of land. He supports

LEAF and is the FWAG

county treasurer

BLAIRS blunder bus blasted into Bedford the other week, captained by John Prescott. As I was busy drilling linseed and our hens were off lay I did not bother to go and welcome him. Coincidently the circus was in town that week, too, but their clowns made people laugh and feel happy.

The later drilled Chablis wheat and Optic barley have emerged well after timely heavy rain a fortnight ago. However, that was before I could get nitrogen applied at 146kg/ha (120 units/acre) and 98kg/ha (80 units/acre) respectively.

That is now on and I have rolled the fields to firm the soil and encourage the young plants rooting. As late spring crops grow rapidly and they tend to bruise more easily, the sprayer is banned for at least 10 days.

February-drilled Chablis is at GS32 and due an Ally (metsulfuron-methyl), Folicur (tebuconazole) Amistar (azoxystrobin) and Tern (fenpropidin) tank-mix. It has an open canopy and is fairly clean apart from a low level of mildew. This poses a dangerous threat to such rapidly developing plants and I would not be surprised if it hits GS33 before I can get the sprayer booms open.

A week into May I lost my nerve with spring wheat and switched to sowing linseed for better or worse. The bone-dry linseed seed-beds can only be described as a compromise and leaving them unrolled was not an option. In the past linseed has given us a fair return for little outlay. But taking into account the plunging area payment regime this useful crop has a bleak future. I for one will miss it.

I am increasingly concerned at the prospective arable area overshoot due to amount of land entered for set-aside. Some sources calculate a deduction of 4% off our IACS cheques not including the 2.5 % RDR modulation tax. Talk about kicking an industry when its down. Dare I hope that the new caring government will apply to Brussels seeking a derogation? &#42

Mildew and arable area overshoots are concerning Beds grower Steve Bumstead. Maybe a new government will help?

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Stephen Bumstead

21 July 2000

Stephen Bumstead

Stephen Bumstead farms

148ha (365 acre) from Ouse

Bank Farm, Great Barford,

Beds. He is a first

generation farmer and

council tenant, growing

combinable crops on three

blocks of land. He supports

LEAF and is the FWAG

county treasurer

WHY have I had to wear jumpers and coats in July? So much for global warming!

In view of the weather in the first half of the month I am mighty glad I used a T3 fungicide of Folicur (tebuconazole) and Amistar (azoxystrobin) on all the wheat. The ears are still very clean and so far all crops are standing well, which could be due to later nitrogen timings. Did I do right in that? No doubt all will be revealed at harvest.

Black bean aphid moved in with a vengeance on the Scirocco beans recently, requiring an emergency treatment of Aphox (pirimicarb) which we tank mixed with 1 litre/ha of Folio (metalaxyl + chlorothalonil) for downy mildew and chocolate spot. Hopefully, we can rely on our friendly, hungry ladybirds to clear up any more incomers.

All our cereals are in desperate need of sunshine to aid grain fill and boost my confidence. Even the winter barley will not be ready before the last week of July. Late flushes of spring wild oats are causing a headache. As we are beyond conventional herbicide timings I will have to wait until I can get in with some pre-harvest glyphosate. Hopefully, that will kill the oats before seeds set and spoil the sample.

My rant on grain contracts last month provoked comments from several growers who also feel hard done by. In view of this I will continue trading the bulk of my crop through a co-op and recommend any of those who are dissatisfied with the merchant trade to at least give their local co-op a try. At the Royal Show, the chairman of the NFU cereals committee, Richard Butler, assured me the NFU is pressing for a fairer trading contract and is producing a trading check-list to guide members.

As for ACCS, I have jumped through the hoops and am fully behind the scheme, a model member. Why? Because my customers asked me to join, which is fair enough. Now, lets sell the concept to the eating public.

Why have I still got my coat and jersey on…in July, asks Steven Bumstead? Even winter barley will not be ready before the last week of the month on his Beds farm.

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