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Stewart Hayllor

19 July 2002

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Hayllor farms

400ha (1000 acres) as a

family partnership from

Blackler Barton,

Landscove, Devon.

Combinable arable crops

are complemented by 32ha

(80 acres) or organic

vegetables, 180 dairy cows and contracting work

FRANZ Fischlers mid-term review includes some radical thinking on how agricultural support may work. At least he acknowledges that farming cannot be tied down by bureaucratic and environmental restraints without some form of compensation.

The idea of a single payment per farm with much less red tape sounds good but basing it on past claims could disadvantage expanding farms. Proposals that modulation money can go to any country at the discretion of the EU are alarming. In my opinion it should be used in the country of origin. Otherwise, the UK could well lose out, as usual!

Our own crops are still a few days from harvest but the combine has had a run out on a neighbours winter barley for crimping. Hopefully the weather then is not a sign of things to come – we started in sunshine, struggled through showers, and finished in heavy rain.

Spring crops have made the most of the weather, looking very good all season. Organic Chablis spring wheat has been very pleasing to grow with disease levels far lower than our conventionally treated winter wheat. Ill stick my neck out and predict 7t/ha (2.8t/acre) from the best looking field, and I promise Ill own up to the actual yield come harvest.

Ample rain has encouraged good growth in our organic potatoes, which are bulking up well. However, it has also sustained a level of blight in some parts that is cause for concern. Drier sunny weather is whats called for.

At a recent organic potato and farm open day in Cornwall I picked up some useful points on varieties and pest and weed control. Always on the lookout for new control measures for potato blight a citrus-extract-based product, said to be a plant growth promoter, caught my interest so I had a chat with the sales rep. He promptly produced a couple of trial bottles from the boot of his brand new Mercedes. Maybe there are easier ways to make money than by growing crops. &#42

Stewart Hayllor has started harvest in Devon, but only with a neighbours barley for crimping so far.

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Stewart Hayllor

21 June 2002

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Hayllor farms

400ha (1000 acres) as a

family partnership from

Blackler Barton,

Landscove, Devon.

Combinable arable crops

are complemented by 32ha

(80 acres) of organic

vegetables, 180 dairy cows

and contracting work

THE weather in the past month has caused more than its fair share of problems due to strong winds and heavy rain. Cows have been brought back in on winter rations, crop fleece blown off and ripped and, needless to say, spray days have been few and far between.

On our own wheat, 0.5-0.75 litres/ha of Opus (epoxiconazole) plus 0.5-0.75 litres/ha of Amistar (azoxystrobin) has been applied. Some went on when intended at full flag leaf, some as late as ear emerged. With the weather ideal for septoria I fear the late sprays may struggle to keep on top of the disease.

Fungicide trials at Tiverton run by Agrovista clearly show the high disease pressure due to septoria in the region. Fully treated crops here are carrying more disease than untreated crops in the east of the country. Untreated crops on the site are decimated.

Our spread of application timings has caused a dilemma in the use of an earwash spray. Folicur (tebuconazole) is the chosen product, but only the crops sprayed earliest with the flag leaf mix will justify an additional spray I believe.

Millennium winter oats look good with a dense crop and lots of straw. The added value of that cannot be ignored when the price/t is on a par with the grain. In contrast to wheat, disease pressure has so far been quite low. Half has had Alto (cyproconazole) at 0.25 litres/ha plus Amistar at 0.6 litres/ha. The other half is in organic conversion and will have to take its chances unprotected.

Fully organic Chablis spring wheat is being grown for the first time and looks good so far thanks to ample rain. Two tine-weeder passes have done an adequate job of weed control but a lot could happen between now and harvest. With no armoury for disease control the next two months will be interesting. How can these crops escape ruin from septoria? I have to hope blind faith will see them through – the joys of organic farming! &#42

Septoria pressure in the southwest is a worry for Stewart Hayllor, especially with organic spring wheat on the farm for the first time.

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Stewart Hayllor

24 May 2002

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Hayllor farms

400ha (1000 acres) as a

family partnership from

Blackler Barton,

Landscove, Devon.

Combinable arable crops

are complemented by 32ha

(80 acres) of organic

vegetables, 180 dairy cows and contracting work

EARLY in May we hosted a Soil Association mechanical weed control demonstration, as reported in FW (Arable, May 17). Several different manufacturers turned up to show off their products, from small hand held and operated tools to large tractor mounted machines.

Unfortunately, while the weather on the day was good, the previous day was very wet which prevented any chance of putting the inter-row weeders through our crops. Hence the format of the day had to be hastily rearranged with static demonstrations around the yard.

Front, mid or rear mounted equipment is being constantly developed to remove more of the weeds closer to the crop. Innovations such as star weeders with flexible fingers that overlap between the crop caught my eye. Video and computer controlled guidance systems that allow very close working at high speeds also impressed me. Several people commented that with less skilled drivers available, guidance systems will find a place. I tend to think skilled drivers will still be needed, but that output could be greatly increased.

Flame weeders were shown working, ranging from hand held burners to a big 6m rear mounted unit that took off down the field like a jet aircraft. Our own experience with flame weeding in carrots shows a well-timed pass can be worth up to £1200/ha (£500/acre) in savings on hand labour.

Catchy weather with a few good days broken up by heavy rain showers over the past few weeks means we have plenty of soil moisture, good news for the potatoes. Winter wheat is approaching flag leaf timing and will receive an epoxiconazole/strobilurin mix.

Yield potential is well up on last year, but with prices looking less than rosy I have decided to forward sell much of the crop to our dairy cows at £100/t, not that I have told my brother, Andrew, who manages the herd yet. That should help later in the year when we compare margins. However, he will probably double the cost of manure back to our organic crops! &#42

A welcome boost. Wheats yield potential looks more promising than last year, says Stewart Hayllor, from Landscove, Devon.

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Stewart Hayllor

29 March 2002

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Hayllor farms

343ha (850 acres) of

owned and rented land from

Blackler Barton,

Landscove, Devon, growing

cereals and combinable

breaks. Organic vegetables

occupy 24ha (60 acres)

and a further 160ha (400

acres) is farmed on contract

PLENTY to do but too wet to do it! A change in the weather would be welcome.

It will take a while for soil to dry enough for planting potatoes or drilling cereals, meanwhile the backlog of spraying and fertilising grows. However, while rain stops play, it only takes a few hours sunshine before catch up time begins at this time of year.

The more forward wheats are at GS30-31 with about 900 tillers/sq m. These crops are due 0.25 litres/ha of Opus (epoxiconazole) plus 2 litres/ha of Cycocel (chlormequat + choline chloride). First nitrogen will also be applied at 60kg/ha (48 units/acre). Where wheat followed beans the residual nitrogen is obvious so top-dressing will be delayed.

About 5ha (12 acres) at the top of one of our highest fields was left undrilled at the end of last autumn so we could drain the many springs that emerge after sustained rain. We have nearly completed the work and it is amazing to see how much water is coming out of the pipes considering the small catchment above the trench line.

The improvements should pay dividends in the autumn, allowing the whole field to be worked earlier if we have a wet time. Anything and everything has to be done to improve output efficiency, something more easily said than done given the small fields and narrow country lanes of this farm. But "what if" scenarios played on the computer show that our best option is to keep on growing the business one way or another.

I have a brother who has farmed in Australia for many years with a business that has grown strongly over that time. One cannot help draw comparisons. They have a weak Australian $; we have a strong £. They have good prices for produce; we have poor. Australian agriculture is on a high; ours is in a low. Their government respects agricultures importance; guess what, ours doesnt. We have farmers weekly; they dont. Well, one out of five cant be bad! &#42

Small fields and narrow lanes are a feature of Stewart Hayllors farm, but growing the business remains the best option, he says.

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Stewart Hayllor

1 March 2002

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Hayllor farms

343ha (850 acres) of

owned and rented land from

Blackler Barton,

Landscove, Devon, growing

cereals and combinable

breaks. Organic vegetables

occupy 24ha (60 acres)

and a further 160ha (400

acres) is farmed on contract

MILD weather continues to encourage plant growth with grass and cereals looking well.

Nitrogen in the form of urea has been applied to our oilseed rape at 75kg/ha (60 units/acre). Straight potash and phosphate will be applied to arable crops according to soil analysis. One job that needs doing as soon as possible is to run our spreader over some calibration trays to check the spread pattern with the different fertilisers we are using. Half a day spent calibrating now will pay dividends with applications over the coming season.

When the rain has come it has tended to be heavy, with the result that our reservoir is now full. The last 25cm (10 in) of its depth filled in less than a day. Cropping plans have been changed to include early bunched carrots and summer brassicas with the aim of making best use of the water.

The rain also added to several years of silt and mud that had accumulated under our weighbridge and had to be cleaned out. That called for some intricate shovel work from Tom and Simon, Tom finishing the day looking like hed been in a mud wrestling competition.

Organic potato ground will need preparing soon ready for this years varieties, Cara, Cosmos, Valour and Claret. Prices are down on last year, an ongoing trend as more organic crops become available. I fail to see the logic behind calls to increase organic production to 30% without addressing the need to market it at prices that make it economically viable. When we started growing organic crops one of the main things that appealed was selling something that was wanted without relying on support payments. If that 30% goal becomes reality prices will continue to fall.

Reading a report on some tractor vibration research, it appears a tractor driven fast over rough ground transmits more vibration to the seat than when a tractor is driven slowly over smooth ground. Nice to know we are getting good value from research funding! &#42

Calls for 30% organic without addressing marketing are madness, says Devon grower Stewart Hayllor.

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Stewart Hayllor

1 February 2002

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Hayllor farms

343ha (850 acres) of

owned and rented land

from Blackler Barton,

Landscove, Devon, growing

cereals and combinable

breaks. Organic vegetables

occupy 24ha (60 acres)

and a further 160ha (400

acres) is farmed on contract

AFTER a very dry November and December more normal weather has returned with rain refreshing dried up springs. Frosts have played their part on ploughed ground, which should help when working down spring seedbeds.

Winter oats and winter wheat crops are generally looking well, with some wheat a bit on the thick side. We will hold back on the nitrogen in these fields to control tiller numbers. In hindsight with the quality of seedbeds last autumn we could have cut seed rates even more from the 145kg/ha (1.2cwt/acre) we used in October.

Weed control so far is good. A small area of cleavers with fumitory and charlock will be sprayed with Eagle (amidosulfuron) at 20g/ha plus 1.5 litres/ha of mecaprop-p.

The kinder autumn has also helped our one field of lupins to establish well. We are very keen to make a success of this crop as it is the best protein source that we can grow for our dairy herd. It is vital to get it established well before bad weather beats it down – as happened last year.

Excellent is a word that rarely appears in crop walking reports from our agronomist Bill Butler but his latest report uses it a lot. Lets hope the season is kind and we see harvest yields fit that description too.

Farming in the UK wouldnt be the same without new directives coming out of the EU. They add to costs, add hassle, and always seem to make things just that little bit more difficult. So it is with Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. Admittedly, reading the small print things may not be as bad as the original hype but there does seem to be a lack of "joined up thinking". Surely, it would make more sense to empty slurry and manure stores in August or September rather than have every spreader rushing out on Nov 1 desperate to clear a backlog? The proposals are at odds with good farming practice in my opinion. &#42

"Whats this? Excellent? Thats a word I dont often see on my agronomists crop reports," says Stewart Hayllor from Devon.

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Stewart Hayllor

2 November 2001

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Hayllor farms 343ha

(850 acres) of owned and

rented land from Blackler

Barton, Landscove, Devon,

growing cereals and

combinable breaks. Organic

vegetables occupy 24ha

(60 acres) and a further

160ha (400 acres) is farmed

on contract

SOME of the things that come out of Europe are so mind numbingly stupid that I just let them drift over my head, preferring not to take our Euro MPs time wasting seriously.

That was my initial reaction to their announcement that tractor driving hours would be limited by law. But as I write this, I realise this is indeed their intention with recently passed legislation. A five-year stay of execution for farming and forestry is little comfort if they are allowed to get their way in the end. This law must be binned altogether.

Back to reality and work continues with seed-bed preparation and harvesting vegetables and maize not surprisingly meaning more than two hours/day in the tractor. Bumper maize crops and a good grass silage season mean our cows have plenty of forage for the next year.

One field of organic calabrese has been cleared, as yet no sales returns available, but I am fairly happy with output. Maincrop organic Cara potatoes are not yet lifted, waiting for the contractor and some good weather. Second early Cosmos have all been sold. They should achieve £2500/ha (£1000/acre) profit but as the variety suffered from too many greens and mis-shapes it will not be grown again next year. Savoy and January king cabbage are coming to harvest now. The mild weather has helped produce a very even crop.

For the wheat – Claire and Deben – and oats – Millennium – drilled so far seed-beds have been near perfect and emergence rapid and even, a far cry from most of last years crops. Rain has stopped progress for now and will probably mean missing my target of finishing by the end of October.

Where a pre-emergence spray has been used it has been trifluralin at 2 litres/ha. The rest will receive a grass and broad-leaved weed spray together with aphicide when weather permits.

Returning to the Euro MP theme: what do you call a Euro MP with half a brain? Talented. &#42

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Stewart Hayllor

5 October 2001

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Hayllor farms 343ha

(850 acres) of owned and

rented land from Blackler

Barton, Landscove, Devon,

growing cereals and

combinable breaks. Organic

vegetables occupy 24ha

(60 acres) and a further

160ha (400 acres) is farmed

on contract

FINE weather in late August and most of September allowed an easy end to combining with time to let late winter beans, some spring barley and lupins mature and dry naturally.

Winter beans suffered from dry weather at pod set, the bottom half of the plant having plenty of pods, but the top half very few, and yield ended up at 3t/ha (25cwt/acre).

Towards the end of the harvest we had a big gearbox failure on the combine with a cracked casing. It happened late one Sunday afternoon, but the response from Gliddons, who supplied the combine, was excellent. They were willing to strip the gearbox out of a spare combine that night and fit it the next morning.

In the event I decided to have a new gearbox in the hope that Massey Ferguson would agree with me that it was a manufacturing fault. The new gearbox arrived overnight and was fitted the next day. When dealer and manufacturer work together to ease the pain confidence in the product improves.

As yet no wheat has been drilled, ploughing is progressing, and recent rains should soften soil and improve seed-beds. Canola (oilseed rape) has been slow to germinate, but I hope by the time you read this it should look better.

Harvest of 4ha (10 acres) of organic calabrese started in September with cutting needed most days. Head sizes are variable due to the dry weather, but quality has been good so far. Most of the cutting crew come from South Devon Organic Producers, but with one person from our farm always present.

I try to share the work around to keep the motivation levels up and for some the incentive for the job has been boosted by the presence of one female worker in a thong. With cauliflower cutting just starting maybe I should equip the harvesting rig with a pole dancer? On second thoughts maybe not or I will never get our cereals planted! &#42

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Stewart Hayllor

17 August 2001

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Hayllor farms 343ha

(850 acres) of owned and

rented land from Blackler

Barton, Landscove, Devon,

growing cereals and

combinable breaks. Organic

vegetables occupy 24ha

(60 acres) and a further

160ha (400 acres) is farmed

on contract

ITS always a pleasant problem when the last trailer load of canola (aka oilseed rape) wont fit into the bin reserved for the crop.

After drying, yield was 4.3t/ha (35cwt/acre), with the added bonus of 27 round bales of straw/ha.

There was little to choose between Pronto and Gemini in terms of yield or ease of harvest. No desiccant was used and we direct cut, losing a few seeds from top pods that were starting to shed but lower down the crop was barely fit. Moisture levels started at 16% but dropped to 11% by the time we finished.

The small area of Hanna winter barley was unsurprisingly not very good, yielding only 5.6t/ha (2.2t/acre) at 15% moisture. At least no drying was needed.

Searching the farm for something else to cut, I tried our fittest field of wheat. The moisture was more suitable for crimping at 28% but the two trailer loads taken have given us an idea of what is to come. Once dried, it looks to be yielding 8t/ha (3.2t/acre) with a bushel weight of 78kg/hl. Now we must wait for crops to ripen naturally.

Organic Cosmos potatoes have all been topped off to get their skins to set. However, that didnt stop them growing so we followed up with a flame burner that also has the benefit of killing the weeds that appear once the foliage has been removed. Test digs suggest up to 29t/ha (12t/acre).

Organic brassicas, calabrese, cauliflower and cabbage have established well. So far we have had none of the cut-worm damage that decimated large areas last year. Leeks are growing well, but so too are the weeds giving us a lot of work hand weeding.

After problems earlier in the year with poor delivery service from Agrovista, I have to say, sticking with them and my local rep Guy Peters for the majority of our agrochemicals has paid off. He assured me things would get better and they certainly have with an excellent service more recently. &#42

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