Beet mainstay of Worcs family mixed unit
Continuing this years barometer grower series, Andrew Blake reports from a family farm in Worcs
LINCOMB Farms has been in the Symonds familys hands since 1926. And the goal for brothers Tony and Andrew Symonds is to keep the arable, beef and poultry unit near Stourport-on-Severn in good heart so it continues to provide a good living in future.
Sugar beet is a key crop on the 223ha (550 acres) of mainly sandy loam, of which about 182ha (450 acres) is under the plough. Indeed Lincomb was British Sugars top farm in the Kidderminster factory area in 1995/96.
Winter wheat, potatoes in good demand by chip shops, and more recently winter barley comprise the cropping. There is also 1.2ha (3 acres) of stick beans providing work in an otherwise slack period for casual staff.
Helping the brothers are two full-time tractor drivers, Mark Harris and Kevin Oliver, the latter having been with the family since leaving school 17 years ago. "A keen mechanic eager for a challenge he is responsible for the home-built hydraulic linkage which allows our power harrow to piggy back the Amazone drill," says Tony.
The machinery fleet, largely Massey Ferguson and Kverneland based, is well up to the tasks in hand, the largest tractor being an MF 6180 120hp 4WD model. Next harvests novelty will be a three-year-old Case IH axial flow 16ft cut combine. Investment policy is to try to keep as up to date as possible to minimise breakdowns in busy spells and reduce running and repair costs.
Compared with the east, wheat yields at Lincomb are not high. "We have had 4t/acre in the past, but our average is nearer 3," says Tony. But root output, helped by irrigation from springs and one of the last agricultural boreholes to be sunk in the area, has been very good in the past two seasons. Annual rainfall is about 660mm (26in). "Our beet quota is 1180t, but I reckon we have about 500t of C beet this year."
Winter barley, introduced on some lighter, newly rented land last season, did nearly as well as the wheat and is being grown again. All cereals to date have been for feed through Dalgety. However, the brothers are toying with the idea of a small area of malting barley and/or wheat for milling this spring.
Variety and pesticide input choices are very much joint decisions. "We work closely with Susan Twining of Worcester ADAS on husbandry matters." Chemicals tend to come from Technicrop of Ross-on-Wye.
Andrew does all the spraying with a two-year-old 18m boom trailed Airtec sprayer which also applies most of the fertiliser as liquid through a separate line. "We went up from 12m tramlines 12 months ago. 24m would have been just too big." Liquid fertiliser has been used for about eight years, mainly for the accuracy it brings, he says.
Sharing responsibility…Andrew (left) and Tony Symonds jointly decide farming policy and undertake day-to-day operations at Lincomb Farms.
The farms power harrow/drill link unit is home-designed and built.
Lincomb Farms 1997 cropping and typical yields
Winter wheat (Brigadier,
Hunter, Reaper, Rialto)81(200)7.4(3.0)
Sugar beet (Jackpot, Madison,
Winter barley (Fighter, Intro)28(70)7.4(3.0)
Potatoes (Maris Piper)12(3059.0(24.0)
Spring barley/spring wheat8(20)n/an/a