Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

James Moldon

James Moldon manages the

220ha (550 acres) heavy

land Stanaway Farm, Otley,

Suffolk, for the Felix

Thornley Cobbold

Agricultural Trust.

Crops include winter wheat,

barley, OSR, beans, linseed

and sugar beet

RETURNING from holiday my expectations that the fields would be starting to dry was, of course, completely wrong.

Mild, wet weather has kept all the crops moving. The early-drilled wheat, Consort sown on Sept 2, is already at GS30. It will soon require a growth regulator and nitrogen.

We have applied 50kg/ha (40 units/acre) of nitrogen and 55kg/ha of sulphur (44 units/acre) to the backward oilseed rape. That may seem early but these plants require an immediate boost unlike the more forward crops, which can wait until the end of February.

The Autocast oilseed rape is showing signs of improvement, with more small backward plants visible. The two Novartis varieties on trial are looking strong and healthy, especially considering they followed Power in Action. With hindsight, that event might have been better named as "Power and Compaction".

Late-drilled second wheats will receive 40kg/ha (32 units/acre) of nitrogen as soon as conditions permit. The direct drilling trials also need some feed to encourage growth and help break down the stubble which may be causing nitrogen lock up. The establishment trials are generally looking well and I am sure within the next two months the visual variations between trials will disappear.

I have given several talks recently on establishment techniques. The more talks I give the more questions are produced and the less answers are available it seems.

That minimum tillage cuts fixed costs is not necessarily true initially, especially if you have had to invest heavily in new machinery. But using existing machinery or hiring and sharing in the short term may well reduce costs. Timeliness of operations is one of the greatest benefits and this must not suffer. There is also an initial learning curve to overcome before a technique can effectively be adopted into the farm system.

But if you can greatly increase your output with the same number of machines and workforce, then drilling a larger area at the optimum time has to be a big advantage of the system. &#42

Minimum tillage cuts fixed costs. Not necessarily true, says farm manager James Moldon at Stanaway Farm, near Ipswich.

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