Archive Article: 1998/06/26

26 June 1998




FARMERFOCUS

Kevin Littleboy

Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha

(600 acres) as Howe

Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N

Yorks. The medium sandy

loam in the Vale of York

supports potatoes, winter

wheat, rape and barley, plus

grass for sheep

WASNT the national cereals event scintillating? I now know how many aircraft there are at RAF Cranwell, what a ministry weighbridge centre looks like, how to build a by-pass, how many white lines there are in a mile of dual carriageway, and how many stone chips/sq m of tarmac.

After queuing for two and three-quarter hours I finally arrived with little time to see all the plots and stands. We really caused a major PR disaster with the general public, from holiday makers to goods lorries snarled up in the queue and radio messages every half hour blaming us.

I sincerely hope that traffic management and common sense next year will improve.

There have been numerous vitriolic attacks and much compassionate pleading against farm assurance schemes in the press. While I am the first to agree that improvements are needed and a single whole farm assurance scheme is more than desirable, may I say to those who do not or will not join – please stay out for as long as you can.

I have now been checked for a total of three assurance schemes and have and will market my produce accordingly.

There are certainly improvements to be made on the farm, but they will be in place by harvest. The reality is that we are in a buyers not a sellers market and we all know that the schemes are not price proof.

As a scheme member, I hope to gain a marketing advantage, not a price edge, and that is exactly what I have achieved in all three – potatoes, wheat and lamb. Thank you to my customers, but once there is 100% take-up I and others will not have this short-term benefit.

With the present weather pattern I am glad I used the new strobilurins because the wheat is looking very clean for the disease pressure we have endured. We will be on again with an azole for the ear wash. Blight spraying has also started on the potatoes, but travelling is a challenge.

Dennis Ford

Dennis Ford farms 384ha

(950 acres) from Home

Farm, Hinton Parva,

Swindon, Wilts. One-third is

owned, two-thirds tenanted

and a small area contract

farmed. Cropping is winter

wheat, barley, rape and

beans, plus spring rape,

linseed and flax

HAVING been lucky enough to have been away on holiday, I am presently looking out of my window as the heavens open.

The weather pattern seems to resemble last years, with a mostly dry May, followed by a grey, wet, dreary June. We have, however, been able to catch up with the spraying and top dressing.

Our first wheats, Buster, are showing signs of brown rust. While I was away, Chris managed to spray them with a mixture of Ensign (krezoxim-methyl) and tebuconazole at 0.5 and 0.25litres/ha. The second wheats had the same plus Aura (fenpropimorph) at 0.15litres/ha. We shall have to wait to see how well this will work with all this wet weather.

Milling wheats have received 43kg/ha (34.5 unit/acre) of nitrogen hopefully to improve the protein content. The rain will help to wash the N into the ground.

Winter barley has received Tilt (propiconazole) with Aura at 0.25litres/ha each. So far we have not had any significant storm damage to worry us, apart from on spreader overlaps.

Optic spring barley has had the same treatment but with the addition of MBC at the same rate. It looks very well with no significant disease or major storm damage.

Laura spring flax is up and away along with chickweed, other general weeds and volunteer potatoes. One field has been treated with Ally (metsulfuron-methyl) at 30g/ha, the other with a Basagran (bentazone)/Vindex (bromoxynil + clopyralid) mixture. Both have had 88kg/ha (70 units/acre) of N.

Liga spring oilseed rape had to have cypermethrin for flea beetle. The split germination caused by the earlier dry weather means we have some plants way ahead of others. But hopefully the similar dose of N it has had will eventually even it up.

On a personal note, congratulations to a good friend, Helen Browning, on her recent award of the OBE. Thanks for the party.

Despite a wet June, Dennis Ford is up-to-date with spraying and spreading, but his spring rape is somewhat uneven.

Teddy Maufe

Teddy Maufe farms 407ha

(1000 acres) as the tenant of Branthill Farm, part of

the Holkham Estate, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. Sugar

beet lies at the heart of the

rotation, with other crops

including winter barley,

wheat and oats, spring

barley and triticale

JUNE, like last year, has been very wet and cool so far. We recorded 85mm (3.3in) of rain by June 18.

In the occasional dry spells we put an ear-wash of 0.3litres/ha of Amistar (azoxystrobin) on the wheat.

The farm has had two inspections – firstly a random MAAF check on our setaside and cereal areas. By our latest official maps they were correct but MAAF is instructed to re-check about 30% of the field areas.

Hardly any of them agreed exactly, though the differences were mostly minute. But even so my new IACS farm map needs a lot of alterations. As some fields corrected were only revised by an official cartographer as recently as 1992, my faith in maps is a little bruised!

The ACCS verifier found small items we will have to record. They are mostly things we already do as standard practice but never bother to log officially, like cleaning trailers pre-harvest.

I know the scheme has suffered much bad press recently. But if your main crop is malting barley and the trade is increasingly in favour of it there is not much option.

Talking of maltsters, it is high time they and the brewers declared their hand before the autumn over exactly which varieties they will require next year. I have never been so unsure as to which varieties have genuine markets and premiums going for them. I explained my predicament to a maltster on the IOB stand at Cereals 98 and told him the ball was in his court to sort out this confusion.

Halcyons market price 10 years ago was £140/t when beer was £1 a pint. Now beer is about £2 a pint the malting barley trade is reluctant to pay £100/t.

It also strikes me as very one-sided that we have to declare every single input to our barley. But have you ever seen a full list of ingredients on a bottle of beer?

Teddy Maufes ACCS inspection threw up few problems, but malting barley variety choice for next season is giving him quite a headache.

James Hosking

James Hosking farms 516ha

(1275 acres) with his

parents and brother at

Fentongollan, Tresillian,

Truro, Cornwall. Land is

equally split between share

farming, various FBTs and a

tenancy. Crops include

wheat, oats, barley and

daffodils, alongside sheep

and cattle enterprises

THE past month for us has really been a period of growing. Despite the weather all the crops are looking very good.

We drilled the wheat at 350 seeds/sq m, which has resulted in ear counts of about 550 ears/sq m, which should be quite adequate for a decent crop. The chlormequat applied in the spring seems to have done its job. The winter cereals are still standing with the exception of a few small areas.

We applied 0.25litres/ha of Opus (epoxiconazole) as an ear wash to the wheats, which following two applications of Mantra (kresoxim-methyl, epoxiconazole and fenpropimorph) will hopefully keep them clean until harvest. These fungicides do seem to have done a very good job despite the high levels of septoria we started with back in the spring.

We have just applied a late spray of Alto (cyproconazole) to the winter oats at 0.5litres/ha. Some crown rust has been creeping into them, which we want to stop. If it gets onto the panicles it can affect the bushel weight.

The daffodil bulb harvest is about to start. We are in the process of desiccating off the ridges, and inter-row cultivating to break the ground up as much as possible. The bulbs are lifted onto the surface to dry in windrows with a modified potato destoner. They are then picked up by casual labour gangs and brought in for processing.

Having cleared a backlog of work from my desk, I am getting nearer the Assured Combinable Crops registration pack sitting at the bottom of my in-tray. I can understand the reasons why we have been forced into a position where we need a scheme such as this, and I shall register.

However, because the farm has several enterprises which require assurance schemes, I am very apprehensive about the extra workload and costs (including all the subscriptions) they are going impose for no real benefit.

Daffodil bulb lifting after desiccation is just beginning at Fentongollan where James Hosking is also about to tackle ACCSregistration.

Kevin Littleboy is annoyed that poor access, leading to extensive traffic jams, prevented him seeing more of Cereals 98 than he had hoped.


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