Brian Hammond

31 October 1997

Brian Hammond

Brian Hammond is farm

manager for Carnreagh

Farms at the 182ha (450-

acre) Ballyalloly Farm,

Comber, Co Down where he

grows 50ha (125 acres) of

potatoes as well as cereals

and oilseed rape

HARVEST finished on Sep 12 – not our easiest but not particularly difficult either. Yields, though not yet known exactly, will be on a par with last year. My only real gripe is the price and low bushel weight in the wheat, ranging from 70 to 72kg/hl.

One field sprayed with Amistar (azoxystrobin), however, averaged 75kg/hl. With a little careful blending we might just scrape the minimum requirement of 72kg and avoid deductions.

Cropping for 1998 will include oilseed rape, making a return after five years. 14ha (34 acres) of Apex was drilled by Aug 29. Seed rate of 5kg/ha was sown into a fine but slightly soft seed-bed. Emergence took only seven days and produced a very even stand of 120 plants/sq m. The crop is now 30cm (1ft) tall and is due for its herbicide. Incidentally, rape, I notice, is the only commodity to have increased in value since August.

Winter barley sowing started on Sep 24 into land previously ploughed and which had dried quite hard. The ground was rolled and then sowed with a power harrow/drill combination. In two fields where the straw was burnt (still legal here, if not environmentally friendly) the seed-bed was much finer, a fact I must try to remember next harvest if straw prices do not pick up. Pastoral and Regina, both dressed, with Baytan (fuberidazole + triadimenol) were sown at 125kg/ha (1cwt/acre).

Contractors did the complete ploughing and sowing at the Carnreagh Farm and are due to start sowing wheat after potatoes at Comber. We used to do all our own sowing, but with potato lifting and autumn sowing clashing, it is difficult to be slave to two masters.

Potato lifting has been a stop-start affair. First it was too dry, then too wet. A combination of rock hard conditions, high dry matter and a susceptible variety, resulted in severe bruising. The problem came to a head when a load was returned to the farm, the first time this has happened in 10 years of growing potatoes.

Potato rejection due to bruising during rocky lifting conditions has been an unwelcome first for NIreland farmer Brian Hammond this season.

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