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
IT is a nice change to be writing when we seem to be up to date – for the moment at least.
A fine spell last month allowed us to get spring oilseed rape, linseed and flax combined, grass leys drilled and break the back of bulb planting. It is always a good feeling when the combine finishes the last field.
Although the oilseed rape was very late drilled and shed quite badly it yielded 2.2t/ha (18cwt/acre) which was pleasing in the circumstances. Linseed and flax came off at about 1.25 and 0.9t/ha (10 and 7cwt/acre) respectively, which is very average.
We are now well into autumn drilling, having started at the beginning of October. All cereals go in at 350 seeds/sq m, which is fairly generous considering we use an Amazone RPD power harrow/drill combination. The aim is adequate plant numbers after feeding our slugs and rabbits.
Most varieties are as last year. Winter barley is Fanfare. Gerald and Solva oats are joined by Jalna because it has done well in local trials.
Main wheats are Reaper and Hussar. Brigadier has been dropped after performing below expectations for two years. We have replaced it with an old favourite, Haven, which always does well here and has good straw strength.
There is a slight rotational change. On Aug 11 next year there will be a total eclipse of the sun in Cornwall and we are on its central track. Detailed plans are being drawn up by the authorities to cope with an expected 1.5m extra visitors to an already busy holiday area.
Farmers are being asked to help by planning, where possible, to keep farm traffic to a minimum on main roads that week, and to offer suitable fields with necessary facilities as temporary caravan and camp sites.
Two level fields with views over the Fal estuary have just been re-assigned from winter wheat to temporary grass, and we have just taken our first booking.
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
WHILE the weather has finally improved somewhat, showers have meant we have not had to irrigate the oilseed rape or stubble turnips this year.
Regina winter barley was all drilled on Sept 14 and the wheat was all sown by the 25th (except Abbot after potatoes). Other varieties this year are Rialto, Equinox, Claire, Madrigal and Consort. The high standard set at Northern Grain Co helped us with early and timely drilling. Thank you! Thousand grain weights ranged from 38 to 64g.
So if people are still sowing by weight alone they are asking for trouble.
It is the time of year to examine autumn quotations for spray costs, with IPU and DFF and equivalent mixtures being most important. IPU at £9.85 for 5 litres looks attractive.
It is also now that crop advisers visit trying to persuade one to pay for independent advice. Needless to say one north-east adviser, who informed a farmer that the flat wheat on his farm this year had nothing to do with too much fertiliser, rain, hail or lack of growth regulators, but was the fault of low flying aircraft, hasnt been on the farm!
Having said that I know one individual who visited to offer advice, and the farmer had no idea which wheat variety had been drilled in which field. There is clearly still room for improvement in agriculture as a whole.
Potato lifting has started in earnest with Wilja for the local trade and Saturna for KP. It is too early to determine yields, but it is very apparent that our different soil types have affected average tuber size and tonnage.
Changing times in the allied trades next door mean manufacturer Claas now owns Sewards machinery dealers and we now have `genetically modified green sales reps running around. It will be interesting to see whether the injection of green makes any difference to sales, parts and service to farmers locally.
The one thing that a crisis in any industry produces is opportunity, and agriculture is no different. I am thoroughly looking forward to the future and all its various possibilities.
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 past month has seen us go from despondency to elation and back to despondency again – all in the space of a few days. Harvest was not our best but we did finish!
We then moved on to clearing up loose ends, one of which was the flax. Having cut the crop, we were prepared to leave it to ret. When the expert arrived and told me we had over-retted and that it was useless, panic broke out – especially as we had only cut it the day before! Once calm descended, a phone call soon put things back into perspective and the next day we were able to bale and put the crop in the barn.
The next day we started contract drilling for our neighbour. Unfortunately, it started to rain the day after and we have drilled only the light land at home since. Crops sown so far are Madrigal and Claire winter feed wheats. These were sown at 400 seeds/sq m treated with Baytan (fuberidazole + triadimenol) seed dressing. Being on light land, they went into good seed-beds, but unfortunately have not been rolled as it is still too damp.
We have tried to move onto the heavier land but that is still too wet and claggy. I am afraid I will have to be patient (but that doesnt come easily to the males in our family).
The Boston oilseed rape has come away very well. Volunteers after winter barley are spread out nicely, so we will spray them out later. But behind spring barley they are much thicker and we have sprayed that field with 1.5litres/ha of Laser (cycloxydim) plus adjuvant oil and a whiff of cypermethrin, mainly as a precaution. All we need now is some decent weather. Anyone know where the nearest supplier is?
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 started drilling on our heaviest land on Sept 15 using our Kongskilde Germinator on recently ploughed and pressed work. By Sept 19 we had 40ha (100 acres) of Regina winter barley and 16ha (40 acres) of Riband wheat in.
We then moved onto our lighter ground, drilling straight behind the plough pulling a single row furrow press and our crosskill roller. By the end of the month we had sown all the Regina, 32ha (80 acres) of Gerald oats and started on the Halcyon barley. I do not like drilling Halcyon too early because it seems to increase screening problems. I would rather forego a little gross yield for a successful malting sample and premium.
Ever since we have used the press and crosskill roller combination to form seed-beds, we have never been satisfied with the degree of compaction on our light land and the amount of breakdown on our stiffer, marly patches.
Now, after seven years looking, we have found the answer in a Kockerling Starpacker to replace the press. It was demonstrated by Grampian Tractors who were so confident in it that they drove 500 miles from Scotland to demonstrate. We were so impressed with its performance that we bought it.
We need only a 1.9m (6ft) model behind our Dowdeswell 5-furrow plough so capital expense was kept to an absolute minimum. The machine leaves the top 5-10cm (2-4in) friable and open for the drill coulters. But underneath that the seed-bed is much more consolidated and the stars have a good shattering effect on our marl patches.
We began beet lifting on Sept 29 with sugar so far averaging 16.7%, good for poultry manure-treated land, and with what seems a reasonable yield for early lifting. But over 5cm (2in) of rain has not helped progress! News of yet a further contract price cut and still no worthwhile reduction in the price of beet seed seems unfair to growers.