Trevor Horsnell, a former
Sugar Beet Grower of the
Year, part owns and rents
182ha (450 acres) at
Gorrells Farm, Highwood,
Chelmsford, Essex. Besides
beet, his cropping includes
potatoes and winter wheat,
barley and oilseed rape
SOME might have thought me slightly mad when, back in the balmy days of mid-March, I said there could still be some winter to come.
I was not going to rush into potato planting just because April last year was a washout and we ended up planting in May. We have some very good, and expensive, seed and the last thing it wants is to sit in cold soil for a prolonged period before emergence.
But on Mar 31 my patience ran out and we planted 5ha (12 acres) of chitted Estima on some easy working soil down by the river. Winter duly returned with 28mm of rain on Apr 3-4 and it was not until Apr 7 that it finally warmed up sufficiently to recommence chlormequat application to the cereals.
Heavier soils are again going to need a lot of patience this spring, as there has been so little frost this winter. Sugar beet drilling was completed by Mar 20 and the lack of frost action was apparent with the soil a bit raw inside. As we only work the ground once and drill at the same time, seed-beds are a little uneven in places.
My costings for last years sugar beet show that the total cost of growing, harvesting and delivering a tonne of beet after transport allowance was £9.69. With the prospects for C beet for this year unlikely to substantially improve I decided to reduce the beet area by planting the headlands with spring barley.
In a bid to reduce the paperwork and cut the accountancy bill I have been to the local computer store to see what programs they have to offer. But when I told the salesman that my computer was five years old, he looked down his nose at me and said that it would not drive the software, and that I needed a new, higher capacity machine.
He was even less impressed when I suggested that perhaps we could turbo-charge my existing one and fit bigger tyres! *
Waiting for the weather… Essex grower Trevor Horsnell is in no rush to plant potatoes at Gorrells Farm – at least, not yet.