4 September 1998


Trevor Horsnell

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

HARVEST is nearly finished, but it has not been a smooth ride.

I am sure most farmers have occasion to think they possess the worlds most unreliable combine, but if there were a league table of breakdowns, our machine would be in the Premiership and challenging for a place in Europe.

This years "Never known that happen before, sir" event came when the cylinder decided to part company with one of its rasp bars while running the combine up in the corner of the first wheat field. A new cylinder was needed and I expect the bill to come close to the value of the entire 6ha (15-acre) crop.

The offending cylinder has been dispatched to Massey Ferguson as the cause of the failure appears to me to be poor manufacture. I dont expect the company will agree. Watch this space.

It is 18 months since there was a Massey dealership in Essex. Our nearest now, Mark Weatherhead, at Steeple Bumstead, near Haverhill, Suffolk, is an hours drive away. I must say the service we get is excellent, and its parts staff are second to none. Not only are they polite and helpful, but also well versed in the art of stress counselling.

Harvest was all but complete on Aug 23 when the rain came, just an hour too soon. We had to leave 2ha (5 acres) of Riband, which we hope to finish on Aug 28.

Wheat yields are better than we anticipated at an average of 8.8t/ha (3.6t/acre). Amistar (azoxystrobin) treated Brigadier and Reaper led the field at a little over 10t/ha (4t/acre), while take-all hit second wheat Soissons, which brought up the rear did 7.5t/ha (3t/acre).

New varieties Abbot and Charger have both been disappointing, yielding little over 8t/ha (3.2t/acre), and no more than Soissons as a first wheat. The Charger sample looks the worst of the year, though we are still awaiting sample results.

Wheat yields have turned out better than expected, says Essex grower Trevor Horsnell. A major combine breakdown held up harvest but at the end of last week, only 2ha (5 acres) remained to be cut.

Ian Brown

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

spring peas

I HAVE learned not to go south at this time of year. Why? Because they have finished harvest and know how full their barns are. I can only do that for barley and oilseed rape – our peas and wheat are barely ripe.

The half-time score for Lee Moor is not good. Our winter barley, over 27.2ha (67 acres), averaged 5.2t/ha (2.1t/acre), but that hides big varietal differences. Jewel for seed averaged 6t/ha (2.44t/acre), while Regina averaged 4.2t/ha (1.7t/acre) with nitrogen at 1.68-1.88%. Bushel weights are poor, with Regina at 56-59kg/hl and Jewel at 60.5kg/hl. This is at 18% moisture pre-drying or dressing.

Looking back to the 1996 harvest, I find a bushel weight of 69.4kg/hl and yield approaching 10t/ha (4t/acre). I wont even compare prices. By nature I am an optimist but the past few weeks have strained even my cheery disposition.

Commanche rape yielded 2.7t/ha (1.1t/acre) across 20.6ha (51 acres). I sold it forward for harvest movement, at £150/t, with a quality bonus to be added on the day, but I have yet to receive the analysis.

We have saved some for seed, but ADAS confirms the glucosinolate level to be 15 micromoles/g, below the 18 micromoles/g maximum for home-saving. I have rarely used farm-saved seed, but the financial climate and the fact that I rent a building to a company which runs three mobile seed dressers mean I would be crazy to ignore the £500 saving possible. Every pound saved this year will make a considerable difference.

More positive news at Lee Moor is that we have been accepted under the countryside stewardship scheme for 2m (7ft) and 6m (20ft) buffer margins to our hedges and watercourses respectively.

We lose about 4.5ha (11 acres) of our least productive land and get a £3,000-4,000 annual payment instead. An attractive option at todays margins, but it is a 10-year commitment.

The harvest half-time score is not good at Ian Browns Lee Moor Farm. Barley and oilseed rapeyields are poor, and the peas and wheat were barely ready at the end of last week. Putting field margins into buffer zones is one profitable. Country Stewardship now looks an attractive prospect.

Jim Bullock

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

IT is a joy to have completed harvest before August bank holiday. In the past we always seemed to need spare parts for the combines when everywhere was closed.

Our harvest has been much in line with others in this area. First wheat Hereward did reasonably well, yielding 8.1-9.4t/ha (3.3-3.8t/acre), with good Hagbergs and proteins. Second wheat Rialto has been more variable. On poorer land where take-all was a problem, yields were as low as 6.25t/ha (2.5t/acre), but on some good land the yields were up to 9.4t/ha (3.8t/acre).

Striker winter beans have averaged 3.7-4.1t/ha (1.5-1.7 t/acre). Interestingly the crops that were established using a lower seed rate required only a protective fungicide, so growing costs were £25/ha (£10/acre) less, yet the yield was the same. It appears that planting a thick crop of beans could be costing us quite a lot of money.

None of our top-yielding wheat crops were treated with strobilurins this season. All were sprayed with a programme based on tebuconazole with added morpholines and chlorothalonil. It seems this was not a very good year for using strobilurins, with such high disease levels early on in the spring.

With the harvest behind us, what are we going to do differently for next year?

Second wheats will only be grown on our better soils, and we will only grow one variety, Hereward. Oilseed rape and winter linseed will be grown on what would have been second wheat land. Bean and rape varieties will be the same as this year – Striker and Apex – and we have home-saved rapeseed for the first time.

To cut wheat establishment costs, we will try more reduced cultivations. A probable programme is to Shakerate, power-harrow and roll, and then spray off any re-growth with glyphosate. A John Deere No-Till drill completes the job.

Beanz means costz…if they are planted too thick, says Worcs farmer Jim Bullock. Lower seed rates lead to lower fungicide costs, and no yield loss at harvest, he notes. Striker winter beans yielded up to 4.1t/ha.

Brian Hammond

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

AS England won the fifth Test, on a glorious sunny day even here in Northern Ireland, I thought our fortunes were changing. Alas, the good weather was short lived.

Terrible as conditions have been, for us they have not been as bad as the infamous harvest of 1985. We have only had to tow the combine out once, so we are not going to win the prize on that one.

At one stage we were in the difficult situation of having to choose between weather beaten winter barley, which was deteriorating by the day, or osr that was starting to shed. In the event the decision was made for us as the barley was too wet and the rape would cut.

Winter barley yields seem reasonable. With only a couple of loads left to deliver, it should average out at 7t/ha (2.8t/acre), down 10% on previous years. Under the circumstances, moisture content has been surprisingly low, most grain coming off at 16-18% and we have cut nothing over 20%. Before 1996 we could sell grain upto 16% moisture content, but now that the standard is 15%, it is almost impossible to bypass the drier with any grain cut in our moist climate.

Apex osr yielded 3-4t/ha (1.2-1.6t/acre), the best result since we first grew it in 1987, and I think that was beginners luck.

As I wrote last time, we were looking at protein peas as a break crop. Peas being grown locally looked magnificent back in July, but now look more like mushy peas. Hence we are sowing rape again this week, Apex and Pronto.

Oats were disappointing, yielding 6t/ha (2.4t/acre), and low bushel weight means they will not meet the milling contract they were grown for. Keen demand for straw has seen it all cleared rapidly, despite the weather.

By the time you are reading this we hope to have started the wheat – weather permitting!

Despite the weather, barley and rape yields are reasonable, says Co Down farmer Brian Hammond. But oats have disappointed and a switch to peas as a break crop is now ruled out – local crops look more like mushy peas, he says.

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