14 August 1998


Bill Harbour

Bill Harbour, last years

southern barometer farmer,

is manager for Gosmere

Farm Partners at 448ha

(1107-acre) Gosmere Farm,

Sheldwich, Faversham,

Kent. Crops include wheat,

barley, oilseed rape, peas

and beans plus

cherries under Countryside

Steward scheme

HARVEST started on July 20 with 9.5ha (23 acres) of Regina barley doing just 6t/ha (2.1t/acre).

We expected rape to be 1.25t/ha (10cwt/acre) down, based on local reports, but overall we have done 3.3t/ha (27cwt/acre) against last years 3.75t/ha (30cwt/acre). Pronto did best at 3.75t/ha (30cwt/acre). Synergy did 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre), and Apex performed similarly except for a disastrous 8ha (20 acre) patch at 2t/ha (16cwt/acre).

Hereward second wheat cut on Aug 4 was disappointing at 6.25t/ha (2.5t/acre) but 3.2ha (8 acres) of Malacca, sown on Oct 10 with 116kg/ha (0.9cwt/acre) of C1 seed did 8.9t/ha (3.6t/acre). We plan to use this to drill 54ha (133 acres) on a buy-back contract.

We are waiting for 83ha (205 acres) of Abbot which is rather flat in places. Hardly a seven for standing. In the meantime we are cutting Solara peas for a neighbour.

Two months ago, I sang the praises of our John Deere dealer, after 100 years of trade and still going strong. But not any more. Out go three depots, and into the new multi-million pound showroom, paid for by compensation from the channel tunnel rail link, comes a turf-care business. That is golf course tackle and Mercedes cars in my book. Diversification? Farming customers wish it was as easy.

This years buy-back contracts have got a nasty little clause. You must buy the merchants seed and not use your own. This is done in the name of traceability. Well what a load of cobblers! If a farm is a seed producer and is assured, surely the seed is traceable. Over the years I have grown all types of seed and still do, and find this flies in the face of ACCS. It makes me think my farming friends in Thanet have a point in opposing the scheme.

Leonard Morris

Leonard Morris is tenant

at 206ha (510-acre) White

House Farm, South Kyme

Fen, Lincoln. His heavy land

grows winter wheat and

oilseed rape and spring peas

and linseed. Lighter ground

is cropped with potatoes,

spring rape and linseed

JULY and early August have turned out relatively dry with only 20mm (0.8in) of rain. This came in two spells – when we swathed the rape and when we tried to combine it.

Most is now harvested and our good field averaged 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre), but the poor field did well under 2.5t/ha (20cwt/acre), entirely due to blackgrass. We have put the straw chopper over it to trim the grass to a manageable height prior to cultivation. On the rest of the rape land two passes of the Dyna Drive and a roll has created a sterile seedbed. Though field surfaces are very dry, cracked, and hard, only 15cm (6 in) down it is still very wet, as any ploughing in the area shows.

Heavy showers, high winds and even some hail have been knocking more wheat down with each onslaught. Locally very little has been harvested, while the little I have heard of has been off light land with yields barely 5t/ha (2t/acre). However if the present warm weather lasts a little longer a lot more will soon be ready, probably just in time for the next wet spell.

I expect to start combining the first seed peas shortly having desiccated most last weekend with 3 litres/ha of diquat, plus 100ml/ha of a wetter, Enhance. The rubbish has died off well. A lower weed population meant a lower rate of 2.5 litres/ha plus wetter on the remainder.

We have not seen so many slugs about for years. Everywhere you look they are there in various shapes and sizes. I have even seen them on the top of wheat ears and expect problems this autumn. Blackbeetles are is also in abundance, providing a feast for a pair of Little Owls on the farm. I just wish they would not leave the evidence – their pellets – in my rain gauge!

Mike Cumming

Mike Cumming is manager at

Lour Farms, Ladenford,

Forfar, Angus, where spring

malting barley and seed

potatoes occupy about half

the 749ha (1850 acres).

Other crops include winter

wheat, barley and oats,

oilseed rape, swedes

and grass

TO us, as seed potato growers, the month of July means one thing – potato roguing. Each crop is inspected twice, leaving a two-week interval. With 25 different seed crops that results in six inspections spread over a four-week period.

With the gains made from reduced generation seed, rigorously enforced aphid control programs and cold storage for input seed, virus diseases and blackleg are not the problems they once were.

Without doubt the biggest problem is now groundkeepers, a situation not helped by following potatoes with winter wheat and a rotation where grass does not feature as it once did. So every day during July anything up to six of us plod up and down the drills in all weathers looking for Desiree trying to imitate Wilja, King Edward doing its best to look like Estima, etc, etc.

The long and often tedious hours spent roguing are often broken by reminiscing about old times and recalling anecdotes, all of which shorten the day. Our squad has no shortage of tales to tell as three of the men walking beside me have a combined length of service at Lour of 92 years.

All three retire within a two-year period starting next summer. These are men who started ploughing when tractors were just becoming popular and learned the hard way how to keep things straight and level.

They are the last of a generation that left school and started on the land and will be hard, if not impossible, to replace. Not one has a son working on the land, a picture repeated across our district and one that should concern us all. With the lack of young men entering agriculture, where are we to find replacements of the right calibre?

William Hamilton

William Hamilton is tenant

on the 205ha (506-acre)

Rosery Farm, Little

Stonham, Stowmarket,

Suffolk. Main crops are

winter wheat and oilseed

rape but he also grows

winter beans and

vining peas

ITS all go now at Rosery farm, with both the rape and vining pea crops safely gathered in. The rape was windrowed by our neighbours with their 4.3m (14ft) swather a fortnight before combining. In past years I have tried various dessicants, but have settled on swathing as a safe and reliable method of preparing the crop.

Our yield of rape was 12% down on last years and despite the price being nearly £20/t up, it is insufficient to make up for the large reduction in area aid forecast.

Both the rape and pea stubbles had 25t/ha (10t/acre) of factory waste lime, otherwise known as sugar beet sludge. We borrowed a tractor and mole plough from our neighbours, the Forrest Family, which Cyril has used to mole drain the stubbles under almost ideal conditions.

Due to several very dry summers we had fallen behind with our moling programme, ideally re-moling every six years or so.

Patches of sand in our clay subsoil mean the moles do not remain useful for much longer. Now I hope the weather stays dry long enough for the new moles to dry out.

As I write, Cyril has started ploughing the rape stubble using a Furrow Cracker simultaneously. As the soil is moist we need to allow it to dry out, or "haze" as we say here in Suffolk, before rolling it down.

All our seed wheat crops have been inspected and only one, a 4ha (10-acre) field of Equinox, has been rejected. This is due to varietal contamination with Cadenza, grown three years ago in the field.

Angus has been through all the wheat crops with glyphosate and oil to treat patches of couch grass, bindweed and thistles.

Hereward yields have disappointed but a seed crop of Mallacca has done much better for Bill Harbour in Kent.

July and August have been relatively dry, but the rain gauge is full…of owl pellets, says Lincs farmer, Leonard Morris.

Roguing seed potatoes is made more amusing with anecdotes from the team. But with three of them retiring within two years, where are the young entrants to the industry, asks Mike Cumming?

Rape and vining peas are safely in on William Hamiltons Suffolk farm, and the plough is turning up soil too moist for rolling.

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