Andrew Hebditch

9 April 1999




Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

SPRING has sprung: The sun is shining, the fields are drying and work is progressing.

Our 75 ha (185 acres) of spring barley, much more than normal, is all drilled with Optic, Chariot and Maresi. Conditions seemed good with dust flying but underneath the soil was still very wet. I felt we were going too soon for our heavy-land but I have no faith in the weather any more. How spring barley will cope with slumped soil remains to be seen.

The late sown winter barley is still thin and backward, despite 60kg/ha (48 units/acre) of nitrogen and a spray of chlormequat and manganese. It is hard to see these being bumper crops.

Oilseed rape also seems slow to get going this spring. Folicur (tebuconazole) has been sprayed at 0.5 litres/ha and a total of 210kg/ha (168 units/acre) of nitrogen is now on. I suppose that is far too much given the appalling price of rapeseed but I would rather have a big yield and hope for a better price by sale time.

Wheats do look well, which is good news. Chlormequat and manganese will be applied as they approach GS31 and Ill try my best to keep the fertiliser spreader out of these crops for as long as possible. Hopefully, no fungicide will be needed until GS32.

Weeds are virtually absent in some unsprayed cereals and anything that does emerge at this stage should be controlled with low rates.

We have just taken on another 55ha (136 acres) of land, two-thirds of which is arable. Our existing machinery should cope easily enough, so long as we dont get a repeat of last years appalling conditions.

Arable businesses on our scale must expand if we are to thrive in the long term. Machinery is ever more capable but also more expensive so overheads have to be spread over more land. Smaller enterprises will have to cut fixed costs and rely on more contract operations in future.

Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones farms 175ha

(430 acres) at Hall Farm,

Westbury, Shropshire.

Cereals and potatoes are

rotated with grass and he is

an NFU council member.

Buildings house potato and

cereal seed dressing lines

BRITISH Summertime brings welcome light evenings and field work has at last started. No spring crops have been drilled as I write. However, if the weather holds Easter weekend will be pretty hectic.

Our winter cereals have had 64kg/ha (51 units/acre) of nitrogen with the next application due at GS31-32, expected about mid-April. At that stage wheats will be treated with Cycocel (chlormequat + choline chloride) and Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) where necessary to boost rooting, plus a fungicide. Oats will have the Moddus/Cycocel mix plus Fortress (quinoxyfen).

Bryce, our agronomist, has noted areas of wild and tame oats which we will tackle with low-rate patch sprays of Cheetah (fenoxaprop-P-ethyl), a technique which worked well here last year.

While in the fields I have noticed an apparent increase in wildlife on the farm. Whether this is due to a mild winter or unsprayed over-winter stubbles I dont know. Besides the rooks, which we could well do without, hares have returned, there are more lapwings and skylarks, and for the second year running a large number of swans have overwintered.

The swans are a mixed blessing. They are a magnificent sight but they do seem to know exactly where new seeds were sown. Even though I am not much of an ornithologist the other day Jill and I counted over 40 species of birds here.

April sees the arrival of yet more regulations with registrations for pesticide disposal and the launch of LERAPs (Local Environment Risk Assessment for Pesticides). Last week I picked up from the NFU that yet another charge to the industry is possible under the title "Climate Change Levy", which if implemented could cost the industry millions. No doubt we will hear more.

Back to farm matters and we have borrowed a Shakerator to break up pans and get some air into our pretty sodden ground. I am not sure whether this is sensible, or just desperation to get our spring crops planted. Only time will tell.

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

770ha (1900 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally

linseed

THE farm sale has come and gone and the yard looks empty. It is a funny feeling but at least we will be filling it up again with new machinery, albeit fewer pieces but of a much larger size.

We kept our JCB 2150 and Airtec sprayer and thats been flat out finishing off the liquid nitrogen top dressing on oilseed rape, bringing the total to 210 kg/ha plus sulphur. It is now out spraying forward wheats with the first of a split chlormequat dose, Eagle (amidosulfuron) at 20g/ha and Bravo 500 (chlorothalonil) at up to 1.0 litre/ha. The Eagle is to tackle cleavers and small volunteer oilseed rape, while the Bravo will protect new growth. Manganese was included where necessary. The second chlormequat will go on at GS31 with a strobilurin fungicide.

We still have 36ha (90 acres) of peas to drill on heavyish land. As little as possible will be done to produce a seed-bed, making the most of the weathered surface tilth. It is drying out well and they should be drilled over Easter.

Our "new" tractor, a second-hand FW60, arrived last weekend. It is 10-years-old but has low hours and is in very good condition overall. We intend using its 360hp for draw-bar work only. As we have not yet taken delivery of any of the new establishment kit it looks rather lonely in the tractor shed all on its own, and it is no use for the remaining spring drilling.

The decision to have a sale proved to be the right option. All the main items – Parmiter & Quivogne discs, a six furrow semi-mounted Kverneland plough, Norton trailers and three John Deere tractors – made well over the price we expected. Our 2388 Case combine and the MB1100 and sprayer clawed their way over the reserve leaving only the three-year-old, 6m Sulky SPI drill unsold. Farm sales never cease to amaze me!

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch farms

285ha (700 acres) of

owned, tenanted and

share-farmed land at Coat,

Martock, Somerset. Silt

and clay soils support

winter wheat, barley and

oilseed rape, plus spring

peas, linseed and beans

MARCH weather could not have been better here, with all our spring drilling completed by Mar 28, followed by some steady rain. Perhaps things are looking up.

Wheat and barley were at GS30 by mid-March, so with warm days forecast we applied 1.0 litre/ha of Bettaquat and 1.25 litres/ha of Barleyquat (chlormequat + activator) plus 25g/ha of Eagle (amidosulfuron) to wheat and barley, respectively. The premium paid on this growth regulator is justified by its better uptake in colder early spring conditions.

We will go all out for yield with this years barley. Low malting premiums and difficulties with high screenings for the last two seasons mean going for the malting market is rather risky.

Elan combining peas are all in. A pass with the Triple-K cultivator followed by drilling at 240kg/ha (2 cwt/acre) should give us about 70 plants / sq m. All 32ha (80 acres) have been rolled and treated with 3.0 litres/ha of Opoguard (terbuthylazine + terbutryn) to give some broad-leaf weed control.

Final nitrogen has been applied to the oilseed rape at 100kg/ha (80 units/acre). The plants are growing so rapidly in the warm weather we had difficulty raising the spreader high enough over the crop canopy to get a full pattern.

The last job in March was to drill the linseed. Emergence should be rapid as it has gone in to a fine well prepared seed-bed at 60 kg/ha (0.5cwt/acre). Given the early drilling hopefully harvest date will be brought forward. It seems that the crop has also been given a stay of execution in the recent Agenda 2000 agreements, so it might feature for one more year.

Most crops look promising and with favourable weather over the next few months harvest prospects are not so bleak as they were. Only one ewe is left to lamb so sleepless nights are as good as over and losses in the field have been minimal with the kind weather. Lets hope it lasts.


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