BALLYHENRY HOUSE FARM

6 March 1998




High rainfall makes good start essential

Our eighth barometer farm

for 1998 is near Limavady in

Northern Ireland. Charles Abel

profiles its strategy

MACHINERY sharing and timeliness to cope with a wet climate are the key features of Michael and Boyd Kanes 280ha (692-acre) mainly arable farming operation on the north-west coast of Northern Ireland.

Based around Ballyhenry House Farm, Myroe, near Limavady, the brothers farm soils ranging from heavy clay to light loam.

All labour, fuel and machinery costs are shared with the brothers uncle and nephew, who farm a similar sized unit at Broglasgo. That brings big savings – one MF combine with yield monitor cuts over 370ha (900 acres), there is one five-furrow plough and tractor numbers are held down.

But the two units are managed separately, including input buying, grain storage and marketing.

Machinery sharing cuts costs, but puts the pressure on operations under threat from the weather. "We work hard to choose crops and varieties to spread the workload as much as possible in the autumn and at harvest," says Michael. "You must not underestimate the weather problems we have here. Last harvest all the wheat was cut in 10 days, but that was exceptional."

Brigadier, Crofter, Hussar, Reaper and Ritmo wheats help spread harvest. "We will even adjust spring nitrogen rates to influence maturity," adds Boyd.

Maintaining grain quality is vital – most of the barley and some of the wheat is grown for seed. The premium is welcome, but demands timely harvesting and a routine ear fungicide to ensure top germinations.

Harvest starts at 22% moisture. "We would rather dry grain in the barn than let it lose quality and yield in the field when the weather breaks."

During recent years the rotation has been dominated by cereals, but now just 18ha (40 acres) is continuous wheat.

Finding suitable breaks is not easy. "The usually late spring here does not allow early sowing of break crops. And we do not have many over-wintering options," says Boyd.

Low cereal prices and an unsure straw market mean more rape is being grown this year. Hybrid variety Synergy yielded better than expected at 4.7t/ha (38 cwt/acre) last year, says Michael. But haulage fees to a mainland processor and additional merchant charges cut profitability by £20/t. This year spring peas are being tried as a possible alternative.

"Disease pressure, especially from septoria in cereals, is so intense that we really do not rely on varietal resistance too much. Everything gets three sprays anyway," says Boyd.

Good results last year mean strobilurin fungicides are set for a return. But split field trials show the importance of early use. One field treated with Amistar (azoxystrobin) later than planned yielded no better than where a triazole spray was used. A better timed spray gave a 14% yield lift.

"Yield boost aside, azoxystrobin also gives a yield and quality assurance if harvest is delayed," says Michael. "Triazole-treated crops will lose yield and quality to ear diseases compared with the clean, golden Amistar-treated crop." Last year wheats averaged 74kg/hl with clean grain.

Claims that demand from growers may outstrip strobilurin supply are dismissed as marketing talk. "I am sure we will be able to get all we need," reckons Boyd. Earlier concerns about eyespot seem unfounded, despite intensive cereal production. Du Pont tissue tests on first, second and third wheats last year seemed to show no difference in eyespot levels"

"We know we get no eyespot trouble with our first wheats, so Sportak Delta (cyproconazole + prochloraz) was replaced with Pointer (flutriafol) and half rate Bravo (chlorothalonil) in all wheats, apart from suspect second wheat on light land. At harvest we did not see any white heads in any crop," says Michael.

Total spray costs of £150/ha (£60/acre) include an isoproturon/trifluralin mix for autumn grass weeds and quarter rate Ally (metsulfuron-methyl) in spring. If cleavers are a particular concern Starane (fluroxypyr) or Eagle (amidosulfuron) are used.

Better soil structure is a key goal, so straw is increasingly chopped and incorporated. "There is just not enough money in baling to cover all the costs," says Boyd.

All land is ploughed in the autumn. Usually one pass with a 4m (13.1ft) power harrow leaves a seed-bed for the MF30 drill running on cage wheels. "All turns are made short of the headland and each operation turns in a different place to cut compaction," Boyd explains.

The benefit of a good seed-bed getting crops away on time in the wet climate more than covers the extra cost of ploughing, he stresses.

In recent years varied sowing rates and dates have been trialled. Some wheat is sown in September at 125kg/ha (8st/acre), but most goes in in mid-October at 157-188kg/ha (10-12st/acre).

"We are edging seed rates down – in trials last year a 7.5st crop gave best yield and quality," says Boyd. But weather worries mean reductions will be gradual. &#42

MACHINERY sharing and timeliness to cope with a wet climate are the key features of Michael and Boyd Kanes 280ha (692-acre) mainly arable farming operation on the north-west coast of Northern Ireland.

Based around Ballyhenry House Farm, Myroe, near Limavady, the brothers farm soils ranging from heavy clay to light loam.

All labour, fuel and machinery costs are shared with the brothers uncle and nephew, who farm a similar sized unit at Broglasgo. That brings big savings – one MF combine with yield monitor cuts over 370ha (900 acres), there is one five-furrow plough and tractor numbers are held down.

But the two units are managed separately, including input buying, grain storage and marketing.

Machinery sharing cuts costs, but puts the pressure on operations under threat from the weather. "We work hard to choose crops and varieties to spread the workload as much as possible in the autumn and at harvest," says Michael. "You must not underestimate the weather problems we have here. Last harvest all the wheat was cut in 10 days, but that was exceptional."

Brigadier, Crofter, Hussar, Reaper and Ritmo wheats help spread harvest. "We will even adjust spring nitrogen rates to influence maturity," adds Boyd.

Maintaining grain quality is vital – most of the barley and some of the wheat is grown for seed. The premium is welcome, but demands timely harvesting and a routine ear fungicide to ensure top germinations.

Harvest starts at 22% moisture. "We would rather dry grain in the barn than let it lose quality and yield in the field when the weather breaks."

During recent years the rotation has been dominated by cereals, but now just 18ha (40 acres) is continuous wheat.

Finding suitable breaks is not easy. "The usually late spring here does not allow early sowing of break crops. And we do not have many over-wintering options," says Boyd.

Low cereal prices and an unsure straw market mean more rape is being grown this year. Hybrid variety Synergy yielded better than expected at 4.7t/ha (38 cwt/acre) last year, says Michael. But haulage fees to a mainland processor and additional merchant charges cut profitability by £20/t. This year spring peas are being tried as a possible alternative.

"Disease pressure, especially from septoria in cereals, is so intense that we really do not rely on varietal resistance too much. Everything gets three sprays anyway," says Boyd.

Good results last year mean strobilurin fungicides are set for a return. But split field trials show the importance of early use. One field treated with Amistar (azoxystrobin) later than planned yielded no better than where a triazole spray was used. A better timed spray gave a 14% yield lift.

"Yield boost aside, azoxystrobin also gives a yield and quality assurance if harvest is delayed," says Michael. "Triazole-treated crops will lose yield and quality to ear diseases compared with the clean, golden Amistar-treated crop." Last year wheats averaged 74kg/hl with clean grain.

Claims that demand from growers may outstrip strobilurin supply are dismissed as marketing talk. "I am sure we will be able to get all we need," reckons Boyd. Earlier concerns about eyespot seem unfounded, despite intensive cereal production. Du Pont tissue tests on first, second and third wheats last year seemed to show no difference in eyespot levels"

"We know we get no eyespot trouble with our first wheats, so Sportak Delta (cyproconazole + prochloraz) was replaced with Pointer (flutriafol) and half rate Bravo (chlorothalonil) in all wheats, apart from suspect second wheat on light land. At harvest we did not see any white heads in any crop," says Michael.

Total spray costs of £150/ha (£60/acre) include an isoproturon/trifluralin mix for autumn grass weeds and quarter rate Ally (metsulfuron-methyl) in spring. If cleavers are a particular concern Starane (fluroxypyr) or Eagle (amidosulfuron) are used.

Better soil structure is a key goal, so straw is increasingly chopped and incorporated. "There is just not enough money in baling to cover all the costs," says Boyd.

All land is ploughed in the autumn. Usually one pass with a 4m (13.1ft) power harrow leaves a seed-bed for the MF30 drill running on cage wheels. "All turns are made short of the headland and each operation turns in a different place to cut compaction," Boyd explains.

The benefit of a good seed-bed getting crops away on time in the wet climate more than covers the extra cost of ploughing, he stresses.

In recent years varied sowing rates and dates have been trialled. Some wheat is sown in September at 125kg/ha (8st/acre), but most goes in in mid-October at 157-188kg/ha (10-12st/acre).

"We are edging seed rates down – in trials last year a 7.5st crop gave best yield and quality," says Boyd. But weather worries mean reductions will be gradual. &#42

Weather worries dominate arable farming on Michael (right) and Boyd Kanes Limavady farm. Ploughing is vital to get a good seed-bed so crops can get away well in the autumn, they say.

BALLYHENRY HOUSE FARM


&#8226 280ha farmed.

&#8226 Partnership shares labour, machinery and repair costs.

&#8226 High rainfall key issue.

&#8226 Cropping: ha t/ha

Winter wheat 96 8.9

Winter barley 73 7.4

Winter OSR 32 4.7

Spring peas 8 –

Triticale 4 7.1

Crops well ahead

Cereal crops are 21⁄2 weeks ahead of usual, says Michael. The first N top dressing is being held off so full tiller survival is not encouraged.

Growth regulation using full rate Bettaquat (chlormequat) will be delayed until GS31-32, with another half rate of Bettaquat plus half rate Cerone (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid) at early flag leaf, depending on lodging risk. "We may try Moddus or Meteor this year too," says Michael.

Total application, including prilled urea and nitro-chalk with sulphur through a 20m pneumatic spreader is 212-238kg N/ha (170-190 units N/acre).


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