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
POTATO planting finished on May 25 which is two days later than our 11-year average. This year the majority of the fields are on the heavy side and some of the land ploughed at Easter had heavy rain on it. Although dry and friable on the top, the soil was still like thick porridge underneath so the only cure was to re-plough it and start again.
A lot of patience, time and diesel was needed to produce a decent seed-bed, but our patience was rewarded with the best planting conditions we have ever managed on this heavy land. Our potato agronomist, Dr Eric Allen, assures us that heavy land produces potatoes of superior skin finish. Does this mean that where I got stuck they will come out like billiard balls?
This spring good spraying days have been very scarce and it has been difficult to complete spraying programmes at optimum timings. However, like the potato planting, the weather came right in the end and at the time of writing, cereal spraying is all but complete.
Amistar (azoxystrobin) will be the backbone of all cereal fungicide programmes. Last year we used it on several field trails and it produced outstanding results against triazole only programmes.
Winter barley received 0.8 litres/ha Amistar + 0.5 litres/ha propiconazole (Tilt) at T2. This followed Punch C (carbendazim + flusilazole) at 0.4 litres/ha + Torch (spiroxamine) at 0.75 litres/ha as a late T1 spray.
For winter wheat T1 was Sportak Delta (cyproconazole + prochloraz) at 0.75 litres/ha, followed by Amistar at 0.8 litres/ha + Opus (epoxiconazole) at 0.3 litres/ha for the T2. A further 0.75 litres/ha Amistar is planned for ear emergence. Winter oats have also had 0.8litres/ha Amistar at flag leaf emergence.
The sprayer has been through the osr at petal fall to control mealy aphids, and apply a half-rate of Folicur (tebuconazole). Our sprayer booms rise to 2.40m (8ft) which was only just enough to clear the top of our Apex – we have never had rape as strong as this before.
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
ONCE upon a time there lived a happy, contented farmer who spent the long, early summer days relaxing and recharging his batteries ready for harvest. Then he did a silly thing. In order to grow bigger and better crops of potatoes like all his friends, he built a reservoir and bought some irrigation equipment. Not content with this he rented some more land a few miles away and bought more equipment. Nowadays, come the start of harvest, this farmer is a nervous and physical wreck having worked from dawn till dusk, seven days a week.
Irrigation for scab control on the first planted potatoes started on May 18, just five days after we finished planting the rest. The late plantings have emerged rapidly and recent showers should have activated residual herbicide metribuzin (Lexone) as well as sidelining the irrigator.
Sugar beet made spectacular growth and were closed across the rows by June 3, the earliest for some years. Weed control seems to have been good and relatively cheap at approximately £45/ha, excluding any clopyralid (Dow Shield) for volunteer potato control.
Flag leaf sprays on the wheats were either Epic (epoxiconazole), or Epic + Amistar (azoxystrobin), with Folicur (tebuconazole) being applied to the 6m (19.7ft) buffer zones. Ear emergence sprays have now commenced on the Soissons with Amistar or Folicur.
We had our visit from the verifier for the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme and only have eight minor points to rectify, mainly recording operations such as cleaning grain trailers – they have not needed to be cleaned so far, so obviously no records. Little interest was shown in what chemicals we applied or at what rate.
I must admit to being somewhat intrigued at some of the costs being claimed in the Unit Cost Challenge. I must be going to the wrong dealers for I have been unable to obtain "no cost" implements or tractors with "Zero maintenance or repair costs" anywhere.
Ian Brown is a third
generation tenant on the
156ha (385-acre) Lee Moor
Farm, Rennington, Alnwick,
Northumberland where he
grows winter wheat, barley
and oilseed rape as well as
YET again the weather has been playing havoc with spraying and fertilising plans – we had another 120mm (15in) of rain last week. Having said that, we did manage flag leaf sprays on three fields of Consort at the end of the week applying Gladio (fenpropidin + propiconazole + tebuconazole) at 0.5 litres/ha, + 0.75 litres/ha Clortosip (chlorothalonil) + 1.5kg/ha magnesium oxide, in 100 litres/ha of water.
In a joint deal with a neighbour, we have bought new row crop wheels for the John Deere 6600 spraying tractor, which are at last in use.
We are about to put 125kg/ha (100 units/acre) of nitrogen on Rialto for grain quality. Alan, who works for us, has been on a soil course laid on by the North Northumberland Agricultural Training Association. We are even keener to learn to farm smarter since we now receive a 50% training grant on all courses undertaken, using European 5b monies.
Our inspection for farm assurance is next week, so I am organising new lights for the grain shed and have served eviction notices on the limited number of mice who are squatting in our grain store – our pest control company is on the case.
I have been on my hind feet again frightening farmers from as far away as Yorkshire and Norfolk with my prediction of the future being tinged green – that is environmental green. Sainsbury have agreed to sponsor the Farming Wildlife Advisory Group to do a biodiversity audit on my farm. We would like to see red squirrel, partridge and skylarks increase and will possibly alter our habitat accordingly.
Will this alter the safety or quality of the crops we produce? No, but it does bolster my argument that modern integrated crop management, using fertiliser out of the bag, and agrochemicals, is the only way to feed the world in a way that does not degrade the environment.
Jim Bullock farms 283ha
(700 acres) in partnership
with his parents and brother
at Mill Farm, Guarlford,
Malvern, Worcs. Two-thirds
is rented or contract farmed,
the rest owned. Cropping is
winter wheat, winter oilseed
rape and winter beans
THIS really has been a season of contrasts. In early spring we were struggling to get more than a few hours spraying, yet all the past fortnight has been near ideal spraying weather to the extent that we have completed the T2 spray on the wheats at the optimum time for once.
There has been very little disease in the wheat other than septoria. We always expect to find some mildew in Riband and Hereward but as yet none has appeared. However, I am finding the odd patch of BYDV in some earlier drilled Rialto. Despite an autumn applied aphicide it was obviously reinfected during the mild winter.
To date we have applied our allocation of Amistar (azoxystrobin) mixed with Opus (epoxiconazole) to the first wheats. Other wheats have received our standard Folicur/Bravo (tebuconazole/chlorothalonil) mixture, which always does a good job controlling septoria.
The Target winter beans are covered in flowers but few pods have set to date, mainly because we are so short of bees. Our local bee-keepers lost most of their bees during the mild weather in February; instead of hibernating or doing whatever bees do during the winter, they went our foraging, couldnt find enough food, and starved to death, despite being fed in their hives.
To hear that Banbury Market is to close is yet another blow to British agriculture. But listening to farms minister, Jack Cunningham, you are led to believe that all is well in the countryside. Having recently visited China, he seems to think British agricultures problems can be solved by exporting a few tonnes of malting barley and some ducks to a nation, that by all accounts, is more financially pressed than we are. There are one or two farmers and the odd person employed, or soon to become unemployed, in the ancillary industries who may disagree.
Brian Hammonds sprayer was just able to clear this crop of Apex to apply Folicur and an aphicide at petal fall. Rape has never been as strong at Ballyalloly Farm, he says
Northumberland farmer Ian Brown is keener than ever to train staff and management, especially since a 50% grant using European money has been available.
Early summer used to be a time to recharge the batteries for Trevor Horsnell. But now the work-load is non-stop. This year, scab control irrigation started only five days after the last potato crop was planted.