2 October 1998


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

DESPITE a dash for the line in the last two weeks, today, Sept 25, we have not finished harvest. Mist has slowed us down and we still have 12ha (30 acres) of peas, hopefully for seed, and 1ha (2.5 acres) of wheat left. It is another grey day, so a finish is unlikely, though we will probably try some a bit later.

Harvest really got going when high winds came to the rescue, bringing the moisture of wheat to within a whisker of 16%. But underfoot the ground was still sodden, and the sight of the combine pushing a bow-wave of water down flooded tramlines was quite surreal. The water-table remains stubbornly above ground level on the patch we have left.

Yields are down, quality is down, but both are very variable. The Rialto as a second wheat is making a £4 premium on 10.7% protein, 230 Hagberg and 72kg/hl bushel weight, based on initial samples. Fortunately we tackled that first, before the rain. Given mitigating circumstances of wet feet and take-all the yield of 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) is not bad.

Consort is faring better, but bushel weights are suffering after the wet. Hopefully everything will be above 70kg/hl when dried. Overall, our average yields should finish within spitting distance of 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), only slightly down on the rolling average.

Here the giveaway to yield is often the size of the swathe. This year the number of 1.20m (4ft) round bales/ha has ranged from five to over 25/ha (10/acre), indicating just how mixed some crops have been. Despite selling all our straw pre-harvest, two fields and five headlands ended up being chopped, because of the ground conditions.

The reason behind trying to remove all straw was originally more about starving slugs than the extra income, welcome though it is.

The thought of mushy peas with my cod and chips has never been less appealing, and it is rent day today. I wonder if they accept credit cards?

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

IT is official: This years harvest weather now rates on a par with the horrendous year of 1985, but we have finally finished.

We started the wheat on August Bank holiday Monday, only to be rained off after one trailer load. Poor weather was forecast, so we pushed on despite green straw and 20% moisture, and cut a further 16ha (40 acres) that week. Yields were good and quality excellent. Reaper did 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre) at 78kg/hl dried. Hussar produced 78t at 74kg/hl off 8ha (20 acres). With some better fields to cut things were looking quite promising.

Then followed 10 days of almost non-stop rain. The rain was not particularly heavy, it just never let up.

We adopted a cut-at-any-moisture policy, and started again at 35%, but it was too much for the dryer to cope with. Standing wheat was growing in the ear and any lying patches were just mush. The next day moisture was down to 27% which we could just about handle with the dryer working round the clock.

Then the weather improved greatly, with high pressure taking control. But as the rest of the country bathed in sunshine, we were fog-bound until lunchtime or later.

Today, Sept 24, we have just finished harvest, a full month after we started. But it will take 3-4 days to finish drying the mountain of soggy wheat. Overall yield will be about 9t/ha (3.6t/acre), allowing for bushel weights down to 70kg/hl after the rain.

We still have 30ha (75 acres) of straw to bale and I hope our contractor returns before the rain does.

Apex oilseed rape, sown Sept 4, emerged rapidly only to be stripped off by an army of slugs. Draza (methiocarb) pellets seem to have brought the situation under control, and we have broadcast some seed over the bare patches.

Next week we start lifting potatoes, weather permitting.

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

AUTUMN may be the season of mellow mists and fruitfulness but for us it is the time when the bills for all those harvest breakdowns rain down through the letterbox.

It seems that some machinery manufacturers fix their spare parts prices by the old formula of "think of a number, double it and then add another 10%". It is bad enough paying extortionate prices but increasingly we are stung for carriage charges too as dealers are holding fewer parts in stock.

Potato harvesting is running about two weeks late. Today, Sept 23, we are barely halfway through. Late planting and slow bulking, compounded by high tuber numbers in both Estima and Desiree, delayed desiccation and the last field was sprayed off on Sept 16.

The quality of late planted crops seems good with very few greens or slugs so far. Yields are fair, with Estima doing 44t/ha (18t/acre). Having not grown Maris Piper before, I was under the impression it was a favourite with the slugs. However, they do not seem to like our crop, taking a cursory bite and then moving on to the next tuber. This behaviour is particularly irritating, as just a pin-prick hole currently makes tubers unsaleable.

Following a potato harvester breakdown on Sept 19, we drilled 17ha (42 acres) of Riband wheat at 180 seeds per sq m. With a thousand grain weight of 41g (1.4oz) only 76kg/ha (0.6cwt/acre) of seed was sown, and in the current dustbowl conditions I am somewhat worried.

A second-hand Massey 510 drill has put us on a steep learning curve. Unfortunately this started with trying to drill Pronto rape at 3kg/ha (2.7lb/acre), and as a result we have no tramlines, and 3ha (7 acres) of the crop with only 10 plants per sq m.

It is going to be one of those "if theres a wrong thing to do Ill do it" autumns, I can just tell.

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

MOST recent research, and our own experience, shows that by delaying wheat drilling , production costs are reduced without significant yield loss.

But I have too many memories of mud, blocked drill coulters, and dark evenings. And I like to get the job done while it is still dry, so we made a start on Sept 20.

Seed-beds are dryer than we would like but we are still getting a reasonably good tilth. But there are masses of slugs of every size, shape and colour, just waiting for our wheat seed. I reckon applying slug pellets is as important as sowing the seed itself this year.

I would like to make it clear to readers that I am not being paid by John Deere, but I have to say the oilseed rape we have drilled with a John Deere No Till drill is excellent. If anything it is too thick, and we should have reduced seed rates. Slugs have been a problem but no worse than with the conventionally established crop.

The main advantage is the time taken to do the job. Our conventional system of plough and power-harrow takes 2.5 hours/ha (1 hour/acre), whereas the No Till drill system takes only 20 min/ha (8min/acre), including a pass with the sprayer, to establish the crop. We did however discover that the manufacturers claim of drilling at 8mph results in a broadcast crop, and 6mph was more realistic on our ground.

I am now so enthusiastic about the system that we will hire the rig again to have a go at establishing wheat, linseed and even winter beans with it.

On the political front, I find it depressing that the Prime Minister finds time to visit and promise help to the workers of an electronics company closing in his own constituency, yet he and his government seem to turn a completely blind eye to the thousands of jobs that are being lost in rural Britain.

See more