28 August 1998


Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

562ha (1389 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally


WHAT a roller-coaster harvest. Winter pea yields down, winter barley up and down, rape variable but generally down. The wheat, however, is running much better, with Malacca, Charger, Rialto and Abbott all yielding 8-9t/ha (3.2-3.6t/acre) with good quality.

At the end of last week, Riband was coming in somewhat above that, and if the weather holds I still have hopes of a good bean harvest. Our spring beans should be fit to cut by the end of August, although it is raining as I write.

The New Farm Crops winter wheat variety trial on our Brington farm was harvested on Sunday, Aug 16. We eagerly await the results.

We had already learnt quite a bit from the trial before harvest. Tiller counts during the spring showed that on our heavier soils varietal differences were insufficient to justify varying seed rates by variety. The other lesson, which comes as no great surprise, is that without fungicides, Brigadier, Riband and some other similarly disease susceptible varieties, put very little into the combine tank. More on this when we get the results.

And now the slug warning. I did a count the other night after dark on rape stubble and found up to 75/sq m. That is 750,000/ha. A lot of these will be killed during cultivations, particularly while it is dry. But there will still be a lot to nibble at seed if seedbeds are not fine enough, and seed cover is inadequate.

I plan to treat all my heavier ploughed and pressed rape stubble with methaldehyde mini pellets prior to the next cultivation and drilling. We have had good slug kills in the past with this procedure, especially when applied just after rain, and allowed at least a week before the next pass. At 10kg/ha mini pellets give approximately 40 pellets/sq m, so you cannot afford to cut back the rate too much more.

Simon Wadlow

Simon Wadlow farms 200ha

(500 acres) at The Croft,

near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Key crops are winter wheat

and sugar beet, plus winter

oats, barley, oilseed rape

and beans. Forage maize,

set-aside and pasture make

up the balance

OUR new combine finally got into harvest here on July 28, with oilseed rape which had been swathed nine days previously. Lipton yielded 3.45 t/ha (28cwt/acre), at 10% moisture. Having missed some very attractive forward prices, I am reluctant to sell at present levels.

Straight after rape, we started on winter barley, all Regina this year. At 16.5% moisture off the combine the estimated yield of 5.55t/ha (2.2t/acre) is very disappointing. However, nitrogen and screenings are low, so the premium will justify growing for malting rather than feed.

The combine then disappeared to cut its co-owners winter barley. On its return we were able to cut the Aintree winter oats at an average 15% moisture and an estimated yield of 7.4 t/ha (3t/acre).

After a false start and a five-day wait, we started wheat last week with Brigadier at an average moisture of 18.5% and a specific weight of 76kg/hl. As I write, I am in the process of drying this, and think it will give us a yield of 8.00 t/ha (3.2t/acre).

At the end of last week we were about halfway through harvest with Charger and Consort winter wheat and Striker winter beans still to cut. From my point of view, the shared combine is working out extremely well, and as we are not combining all the time, there is more time for ploughing and stubble cultivations.

Some straw is already sold to neighbouring stock farmers, but most is baled for our own use, or sale during the winter. The SASTAK local machinery ring means minimal effort on my part, making Claas 1200 quadrant bales which are convenient in the barn and the cattle yard.

Stubble turnips have been put in after set-aside and some of the winter barley and will provide useful winter keep for the sheep.

Jim Mcfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

THIS is a high yielding farm. With strong, predominately south facing, drought tolerant land, our expectations are high. And I like to think that some half decent management helps.

But last year our yields were disappointing, and so far this year they are abysmal. Muscat winter barley has yielded 6.4t/ha (2.6t/acre), at an average bushel weight of 57kg/hl, and moisture of 19%. The return is only just enough to cover our variable costs. To make matters worse the land is so deeply rutted that in one case we are unable to sow rape. This field will have to go into set-aside before attempting to repair the damage next year. Even the better fields are still very wet, with little soil structure, so rape establishment will be a struggle. Ploughing will be avoided where possible for fear of bringing up our worst, cheesy soils.

Our love affair with the plough must come to an end. It is a slow and expensive job and so often we bring up trouble and struggle to make a decent seed bed. Making use of the more friable top layers of soil makes far more sense and would save money. But, as usual, we need to spend some first.

Our Suffolk coulters do not like trash, and our ancient chisel plough is hardly the best machine for no-plough cultivation. As we would never dispense with the plough altogether, it would also mean an increase in machinery levels. More machinery sharing between neighbours must be considered for the future.

Back to the harvest, and Lipton oilseed rape has yielded a paltry 2.4t/ha (19cwt/acre). Fortunately ours was mostly Synergy, but at an estimated 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre) this is still well below expectations. As I write we are cutting spring barley, yielding about 5t/ha (2t/acre), a pleasant surprise considering how awful it looks.

If we are to utilise this farms potential, then a return to dry summers is needed, fast.

Brian Lock

Brian Lock farms rented and

owned land in Dorset,

including 200ha (500

acres) at Silverlake Farm,

Sherborne. Cropping

includes wheat and barley

for feed, seed and malting markets plus oilseed rape

and herbage seed

OUR harvest 1998 is like the curates egg – good in parts. Tremendous variability is perhaps a fair summary.

Maris Otter winter barley, finished last month in a spell of excellent weather, has all met the maltsters or seed merchants specification accordingly, which is good news.

During a spell of very catchy weather we struggled to harvest Rosalin tetraploid perennial ryegrass and the previously grazed Molisto tetraploid hybrid ryegrass seed crops. But then miraculously, the weather changed and in moved a high pressure zone.

Absolutely brilliant! Life was almost worth living combining wheat at moistures down to 13%, Elgon tetraploid perennial ryegrass at 15%, and even Molisto, which we had taken for silage, at 23%.

However, in the wheat near Dorchester we found great variability and some disappointing yields, which frankly I am ashamed of.

Second wheat Reaper went flat on the heavier soils, and did little over 5t/ha (2t/acre). In contrast on poorer stone brash soil, the crops stood and yielded 8t/ha (3.5t/ac), still as a second wheat. The management of each was more or less identical with very full fungicide programmes. But the diseases, fusarium in particular, devastated the lower yielding crops. Bushel weights vary from below 70kg/hl to almost 75kg/hl.

Here, on chalk with flints, yields have been more acceptable. Our last variety, Consort, grown for seed seems to be yielding as well as any. Bushel weights in general are in the low 70s compared with last years high 70s.

Disappointing yields, quality and low prices are not an acceptable combination but it could have been worse. We might have had to dry everything and the weather might have been appalling.

With spring oilseed rape still to harvest, I am hoping that like the parable of the turning of water into wine, the best will be left until last. But farming is certainly not a wedding feast.

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