Brian Hammond

15 May 1998

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

BACK in February I had a conversation with my father, discussing the lush growth of crops and grass. He assured me that winter would come, and how right he was. January weather returned on Good Friday when the thermometer read -7C (19F) and we had 8cm (3in) of snow on Easter Tuesday. Inclement as the weather has been we have escaped the floods that other parts of the country had.

Although spraying has been difficult we have managed to complete plant growth regulator and first fungicide programmes without going too far past optimum timings.

All nitrogen has been applied for the season. Amounts have been pegged back a little from previous years.

Winter wheat had 181kg/ha (145 unit/acre), winter barley 169kg/ha (135 unit/acre) and winter oats 106kg/ha (85 unit/acre). Amounts have been matched to fertility by field and even within some fields to take account of known fertility or the lack of it.

While completing the various fungicide programmes set out for me by agronomist Bruce Steele, I noticed some of the rates had been worked out to three decimal places. The days of throwing a couple of cans in to the sprayer tank have long gone.

All crops look well but nothing exceptional. The effects of the cold snap, although alarming at the time, have probably done good. Barley and wheat now have a good spring to them, whereas before Easter they were soft and floppy. I have seen barley lodged and heard of wheat down too.

The frost has killed off a few pods of Apex OSR but there is more than enough set since. Snow on OSR in full flower is probably the strangest sight I have ever seen.

We made a start planting potatoes with a pre-pack crop of Dunbar Standards on Bank Holiday Monday. This is the same date as 1992 – that year we finished at the end of May in brilliant conditions and produced some very good crops.

The days of throwing a couple of cans of product into the sprayer are long gone, notes Brian Hammond.Recommendations on his County Down farm now run to three decimal places.

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