James Hosking farms 516ha
(1275 acres) with his
parents and brother at
Truro, Cornwall. Land is
equally split between share
farming, various FBTs and a
tenancy. Crops include
wheat, oats, barley and
daffodils, alongside sheep
and cattle enterprises
FINALLY and thankfully, after two months of seemingly continuous rain, we have had a week of sunshine. If the Americans say that July was the hottest month ever recorded, they obviously did not come to Cornwall for their holidays this year.
The farm has had to spring into action with everything needing to be done at once. The harvest, hay-making, lifting and bringing in daffodil bulbs, and replanting them, all at the same time, has stretched our resources to the limit.
We managed to cut winter barley one fine weekend in July. The quality was surprisingly good. It yielded 6.7t/ha (2.7t/acre) at 1.6% nitrogen, with a bushel weight of 69kg/hl. We got the straw off promptly which is always a relief as we follow it with forage rape for the sheep. Drilling in July into moist soil should give us a good crop.
We are cutting wheat and oats now, and continually searching for fields with least green in them.
Yields are not as bad as I feared, but we will be down on our average with the wheat. It is varying over and under 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) but I can see no reason for the big differences we are getting between fields. Some of the Brigadier will need mixing to get it over the minimum bushel weight requirement.
Bulb lifting is complete, although they are not yet all carried in. After a month of trying to handle and dry damp bulbs it is a great relief to be able to bring them straight in from the field ready to grade. Almost more difficult than handling a wet crop has been having to explain continually to customers that they cant have their orders because the weather is holding us up. The retail trade no longer understand that a delivery date could be delayed by something which is beyond our control.
The retail trade does not understand that the weather is beyond the farmers control, says Cornish farmer, James Hosking. But it is now all go at Fentongollan, with bulbs, oats, wheat and hay all ready at once.
Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha
(600 acres) as Howe
Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N
Yorks. The medium sandy
loam in the Vale of York
supports potatoes, winter
wheat, rape and barley, plus
grass for sheep
BRITISH industry has been decidedly unsuccessful in persuading the government to modify its monetary policies, especially interest rates and the strength of sterling.
This ineffectiveness results from the manufacturing industry being only 20% of GDP, of which agriculture and its allied trades represent only 6%.
Unfortunately, arguing the case for industry is a lost cause. Environment, welfare, safety and the consumer are the only emotive words that are being listened to in Whitehall.
Individual sector efforts of the agricultural supply chain, which have been successful in the past on their own, are now no longer effective in lobbying the government or its associated bodies. Trade associations and public relations lobbyists, too, can no longer continue in isolation.
Never before has there been a better case or need to pull together all the allied industries, to argue the political and social case of keeping the rural communities vibrant and economically successful.
This will bring home to the general public exactly what is happening to the countryside and hopefully demonstrate to the urban majority that the rural sectors have something to contribute to society as a whole.
As agriculture moves to a more free-market economy, we farmers cannot bury our heads in the sand as individuals. We must understand what is happening outside the farmgate too, so all sectors of the agricultural industry and allied trades can join together with one powerful voice.
Back inside the farmgate, Regina winter barley is 15% down in yield, but Commanche oilseed rape has done very well.
I have just started combining the second wheats and the yield is disappointing due to trichodorus nematodes on the sandy land. I refuse to reveal the exact figure in case my bank manager is reading this. I look forward to getting into the first and continuous wheats.
It is now official, farming is in recession. I have just seen a farmer on a push-bike.
Never has the need been so great for farmers and the allied trades to unite and put across the case for the rural economy. Invdividual voices will not be heard, says N Yorks farmer, Kevin Littleboy.
Teddy Maufe farms 407ha
(1000 acres) as the tenant of Branthill Farm, part of
the Holkham Estate, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. Sugar
beet lies at the heart of the
rotation, with other crops
including winter barley,
wheat and oats, spring
barley and triticale
WE now have the final results of the winter barley. The Halcyon averaged 3% screenings at 1.47% nitrogen, but at a yield nearly 1.9t/ha (0.75t/acre) less than the 1.55% nitrogen Regina. Admittedly that was on our best land at North Creake aerodrome.
The price differential is nowhere near enough for the Halcyon to make up for the lower yield, so unless the maltsters come forward with a more positive premium for next year, and soon, I see this to be Halcyons swan song. Another blow for light land premium barley growers margins.
We have only just started harvesting spring barley. Yields are unexciting but nitrogens are low so far.
Our agm this week served to depress me further with a mountain to climb to regain profitability with our present crop prices. This year, saving 10% on sprays and 15% on fertiliser has not cancelled out a 30-40% drop in crop returns.
I am sick of reading articles from various farming experts which say, "Just get your costs down and everything will come right." It will not be that easy. We have been chasing down our costs for some time now like most farmers with any sense of business survival.
It amazes me that the very necessity for life, food, is the one commodity so often undervalued.
The sugar beet, even after 23mm (1in) of rain at the end of July are really thirsty for another decent drink following this very hot week. Dr Philip Draycott recently inspected the crop for the first signs of last years "low sugar disease" but no symptoms have been found yet.
Thanks to the keen eyesight of Eddy on the sugar beet hoe, we have had two pairs of oyster catchers successfully hatch and rear chicks off our fields this season. Well done Eddy.
If the malting trade doesnt stump up better premiums for Halcyon, and fast, it will not be drilled this autumn, says Norfolk grower, Teddy Maufe.
Dennis Ford farms 384ha
(950 acres) from Home
Farm, Hinton Parva,
Swindon, Wilts. One-third is
owned, two-thirds tenanted
and a small area contract
farmed. Cropping is winter
wheat, barley, rape and
beans, plus spring rape,
linseed and flax
THE yields of our crops are as good as we have ever had. Winter oilseed rape yielded over 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre) and has been sold forward at £190/t. Winter and spring barley have gone over 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre) and are top quality. Both have been accepted for malting and sold at £135/t.
Winter wheats are excellent, the milling wheat being a good 11.5% protein and high Hagbergs, selling at a premium of nearly £30/t over feed wheat, which in turn has been sold for £120/t. Looking out of the window I can see a flock, or is it a herd, of pigs flying past.
The harvest is, of course, living up to expectations. Winter osr was variable, Pronto yielding 2.8t/ha (22cwt/acre) according to the drier weigher. Synergy was, as expected, very disappointing, coming out at just over 1.4t/ha (11cwt/acre).
Fanfare winter barley yielded only 4.9t/ha (2t/acre), but there is some hope of a malting premium. Even with that, it could still end up in intervention.
Winter wheat is still an unknown, although the first field of Hereward, while down on yield, is much better quality than I expected at 12% protein, 79kg/hl, and 290 Hagberg. The fact that we are in the middle of a heatwave is certainly helping as all of the wheat is ripening fast and we should not have to spend much on drying it.
So far we have only done a little stubble work, giving the osr and barley stubbles a once over with the disc and press combination we bought last March, to encourage germination of volunteers.
Sewage sludge will be spread this week on next years winter osr fields, and immediately disced, once if not twice. That should leave them ready for drilling in the last week of August.
Excellent yields, fantastic prices and flying pigs…all the fun of harvest at Dennis Fords Wilts farm.