9 November 2001


Paul Warburton

Paul Warburton farms

208ha (514 acres) of mostly

chalky loam at North Farm,

Shillingford Hill, near Oxford.

He is an owner-occupier,

running the business in

partnership with his wife

Hilary. Cropping includes

feed wheat, feed barley

and oilseed rape

OCTOBER was the warmest for 300 years here in south Oxon. That, plus 10cm (4in) of rain, has resulted in many acres of very forward crops some of which could well have been drilled at even lower seed rates with hindsight. Now, we need some hard frosts to steady up growth and it is inevitable that we will need some serious growth regulators next spring.

Chablis spring wheat was drilled on Oct 14 at 250 seeds/sq m followed by our last field of winter wheat, Soissons, two days later. The soil was so warm both crops emerged within a week.

The early drilled wheats have had 3 litres/ha of the less viscous pendimethalin formulation Stomp 400 plus 20g/ha of Lexus DF (flupyrsulfuron-methyl) and 50ml/ha of Starion (bifenthrin) aiming to control of blackgrass in particular plus broadleaved weeds, volunteer oilseed rape and aphids.

All the Escort oilseed rape has been sprayed with 0.5 litres/ha of Genie (flusilazole) for phoma control plus 0.45 litres/ha of Bavistin (carbendazim) to bash the light leaf spot. It is noticeable how much less phoma there is on the Escort compared to Apex in previous years. Some local crops have 50% of leaves affected.

Slugs continue to be a bother, requiring regular patrols on my trusty Honda Quad, spreader bolted to the back frame, bag of pellets in front tray, treating as necessary.

Our B&B business is still very busy which, thanks to my wife, makes a significant contribution to the Warburton funds.

But it has added benefits. Last month I lost a skim while ploughing. I knew roughly where it had dropped off but couldnt find it. Who should be staying with us but a guest who had done some metal detecting on a previous visit, looking for coins etc. I gave him a map with a shaded area and one hour later he returned with a big grin on his face and the lost skim in his hand. A rare case of having your cake and eating it! &#42

Escort oilseed rape has noticeably less phoma than Apex had in previous years, says Paul Warburton. All crops on his Oxon farm are racing away.

Tim Piper

Tim Piper farms at

Churchlands on the edge

of Romney Marsh, Kent.

Wheat, barley, oilseed rape,

herbage seed and vining

peas occupy 890ha

(2200 acres) of the

1105ha (2730-acre) unit

IT is very satisfying to have plan A successfully completed without having to resort to plans B, C, D etc – a complete contrast to last year.

Apart from one or two people clearing up "odds and ends", most of the drilling and potato harvesting in this area seems to be completed.

At home, most of our cereals, having been dressed with Secur (imidacloprid), have not required any further action up to now. But because we are enjoying a good spot of weather we are taking the opportunity to go round with 0.25 litres/ha of cypermethrin, where necessary adding various products to take out obvious patches of blackgrass and wild oats.

However, the initial herbicide mix of linuron and trifluralin has done an excellent job on broad-leaved weeds and meadow grasses and at well under £12/ha (£5/acre) represents very good value.

All our oilseed rape has had fungicide, either Punch C (carbendazim + flusilazole) at 0.4 litres/ha or Plover (difenoconazole) at 0.25 litres/ha, both with cypermethrin.

I am very pleased that I reduced my seed rates because, by and large, the mild weather has lead to rapid growth and there are some very strong lush crops.

These could prove troublesome next spring and a lot of growth regulators and fungicides will be required to keep them standing. The same can be said of cereals, so it could well be worth buying shares in a company making growth regulators. Thats assuming that anyone would want to buy shares in any company at the moment!

As I start thinking about selling crops, it appears that the only way that we, as farmers, are going to get rid of the ridiculous weighbridge charges is with a united front put forward by the NFU.

One or two individuals may succeed on their own but obviously will be singled out and paid a lower price as a result.

Hence I urge farmers to apply pressure on their local NFU cereal representatives to fight this on their behalf. &#42

Lean on your NFU cereals representative to fight weighbridge charges, suggests Tim Piper.

Ron Duncan

Ron Duncan farms 222ha

(550 acres) in partnership

with his wife and eldest son

at Begrow Farms, Duffus,

Elgin, Moray. Crops include

winter wheat, spring barley,

swedes and beetroot,

alongside a pedigree

Limousin suckler herd

THE radio reported we have just had the warmest October since records began over 300 years ago. We have also had torrential rain every third day. If this is to become the norm then we may have to change our cropping policy.

We are in the first week of November with only 20% of our intended wheat area sown. The shimmering fields can barely be walked on, far less driven over. After the south of Englands soaking last year it seems its our turn now.

All our talk of min-till versus plough seems irrelevant when there are potatoes still to be lifted on heavy land where we traditionally grow our best wheat.

But we havent given up yet – surely we will get some good hard frosts to dry out the surface and allow us to start ploughing on fresh ground. The problem is we cant "one pass" hard behind the plough on the real sticky stuff and every extra pass needs a dry day.

Wheat is still the most important crop on the farm for us because it is hardy and we have a reliable guaranteed market on our doorstep. In theory that is the case with spring barley, too, but the maltsters are much trickier to deal with. Apart from that, we have wheat seed bought and the fertiliser in the store.

Grain returns are bringing home the cost of transporting moisture about the countryside but thank goodness we pushed on with the combining when we did. Some excellent crops of protein peas in the area have ended up going under with the plough.

Why does our government assume that arable farms need no more help? I understand £57m of agri-monetary aid was available to the end of October. What a mental boost for farmers that could have been, but they were not listening.

Finally, thank you Paul Warburton for taking your holiday in Scotland where there is plenty of friendly farmhouse accommodation available. &#42

The weather tables seem to have been turned, with last autumns awful conditions in the south of England repeated this year in the north of Scotland, says Ron Duncan.

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

LAST months unseasonably warm weather has done wonders for crop development. Oilseed rape is knee-high, early drilled winter wheat has three tillers and the sugar beet is still a lovely dark green colour just oozing growth.

We are still drilling, with fields coming out of sugar beet going into wheat. Last year we took the decision to continue planting fields destined for spring barley with wheat because a shortfall was on the cards. It proved to be the right thing to do, but this year the choice is not quite so easy.

Spraying has been a stop-start affair but we are generally on top of it. The second machine has helped greatly especially with all the Nitrate Sensitive Area grass we have sprayed off. I didnt realise how much fescue was in the sward and the 4 litres/ha rate of Touchdown (glyphosate-trimesium) was too slow to instil confidence of a complete kill so it was increased to 6 litres/ha. However, it is a sign of the times that this made little difference financially, 5 litres of glyphosate costing under £10 now, compared to £54 back in 1991 when we entered the NSA scheme.

Last years Pearl and Leonie winter barley has started to be moved, all on contract at a set price over feed taken from the HGCA eastern region figure for the week of movement. The barley price has been under pressure recently but I do question how the HGCA figures are correlated. Can it be right that the price for the week ending Oct 11 was £66 in the midlands while we poor farmers in the east were only receiving £61.70? That is an 8% difference, which is a huge amount in todays climate.

An interesting day at Beet UK left me pondering many things as I left, one of which was that however well the nine-row Vervaet was going I wouldnt want to be the one to pull it out when stuck in conditions like last years! &#42

How does the HGCA derive its regional grain prices, asks Mark Ireland from Grange Farm, where wheat is still being sown after sugar beet.

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