23 October 1998


Jim Macfarlane

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

HARVEST was completed on Sept 21 under blue skies with dust flying. Even backing up one steep field to cut it all downhill couldnt dampen my spirits after our earlier struggles.

Unfortunately yields are at a 10-year low with poor bushel weights. I had hoped to draw a line and make a good start with our new crops, but it was not to be. Poor weather wreaked havoc with our plans. After sowing only a third of our winter barley we could not get near our heavy land.

We drilled a further 8.5ha (21 acres) into lighter fields where spring barley was planned. By then it was Oct 9 so I decided to leave the rest in the bag. I dont want to risk poor crops in the current climate, although the reduced winter barley acreage will spoil our chances of timely rape sowing next year.

Mid-August rape sowing is essential here to get good establishment before colder weather sets in. Our end of August sown crop is only at the 3-4 leaf stage despite 30kg/ha (24 units/acre) of nitrogen. It will be vulnerable to pigeon damage over winter.

Wheat sowing is stop/go – mostly stop. We have done about half our area but the heaviest bits remain. Land is ploughing up very wet and not drying.

Virtually everything has had slug pellets. Last year I took a wait-and-see approach. We then spent all winter going back with pellets often after crops were thinned. So this year no expense has been spared with a full hit straight after sowing. With poor seed-beds crops cant stand high slug numbers and Im determined to have fewer bare patches this year.

However, we rolled one field too soon in my eagerness to beat the slugs and there is now a bare strip under every tyre track. Sometimes it seems I never learn. 1998 has now replaced 85 as the horror year to beat all others.

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