30 October 1998


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

HOPEFULLY we have won the slug war. Everything drilled this autumn – oilseed rape, wheat and linseed – has been pelleted, with some of the rape needing two applications. However, it is slightly worrying to see so many slug eggs in the soil. If these all hatch small or backward plants may still be damaged.

Most of the first wheats, sown in Sept, have established well, emerging in just over a week.

Conversely winter linseed has taken nearly three weeks to come through, though the direct drilled field did emerge slightly earlier. We were advised not to plant too early but looking at the tiny seedlings I hope we do not get a prolonged cold period before they have had a chance to grow on.

As usual we have broadcast winter beans onto stubble and ploughed them down, followed by the power harrow to make a surface tilth to get the best out of simazine. We find weed control is often difficult and expensive in beans, so we are going to try direct drilling some, having effectively created a stale seedbed by spraying off stubble with Roundup (glyphosate).

Our next concern with most of the drilling complete is whether we will be able to get the autumn spraying programme completed on time. Perhaps one should not worry, as last year our most cost effective and efficient blackgrass control was where we delayed spraying until Feb. However, that was last year and looking at the blackgrass that has germinated so far this autumn, I suspect if we leave it too long the crop will suffer.

The wheat programme is based on 2500g/ha of ipu on heavy land, and 1500g/ha on light, both plus dff. On the worst blackgrass fields Lexus (flupyrsulfuron-methyl) will be used instead, with a low rate Cheetah (fenoxaprop-ethyl) plus oil follow-up planned for the spring.

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

COULD I have solved the problem that has eluded farmers since the beginning of time – to control the weather? All I have to do is write this article complaining that it is too dry or too wet and hey presto – when it is published a few days later the conditions are completely reversed. Last months report of a dust-bowl had become a quagmire by the time FW landed on the doormat, and I looked a right Charlie, especially in the eyes of my neighbours.

Since I last put finger to keyboard, the potato harvester has only made five outings, lifting just 5ha (12 acres) in four weeks. Our 15-year-old Grimme harvester does a remarkable job in the conditions, but 8ha (20 acres) of Desiree are yet to be conquered in the battle of machine versus sticky Essex clay.

Unfortunately machinery in the store does not fare so well and looks more like a plasticine maker than a potato grader. Surely in these technologically-advanced days, when a satellite can tell me exactly where in the field my potato harvester is stuck, it should be possible to buy a potato grader that doesnt require constant scraping or deposit potatoes on the floor every time your back is turned.

Over half of our cereal seed is still in the barn. Reaper, Claire, Abbot and Charger await the drill but Gaelic, Savannah and Riband are in the ground. Riband is ready for ipu plus dff, with cypermethrin and manganese mixed in.

We are hosting variety and variety x fungicide trials for Morley Research Centre this year, so come next harvest we should have all the answers.

Our very thin Pronto rape now looks about the right density, and the rest of the crop, like many others in the area, looks too thick. Maybe our drill problem wont turn out to be such a disaster after all.

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

AUTUMN drilling is up-to-date with several minor changes to cropping plans this year. Only wheat after potatoes remains to be sown.

Winter oats have been dropped, not because we have given up on the crop but because the land we had designated for it, our lightest fields, has been switched to grow early set-skin potatoes.

A small area of spring barley will be tried and the gross margins compared carefully with our winter barley which takes up 57ha (140 acres). Winter varieties are old faithfuls Pastoral and Regina plus 4ha (11 acres) of Muscat. We have grown 6-row varieties in the past but always had a problem with low bushel weights. In a trial to overcome this half the field has been mixed with the 2-row variety Vertige, and we plan to treat it all with strobilurins in the spring.

The war with slugs continues. The latest attack has been on wheat drilled after rape and has been treated with Draza (methiocarb). All fields are being watched very carefully with daily inspections. At the moment we are winning the battle but it is very close.

Mother Earth does not want to give up her bounty easily this year and potato lifting is proving a slow process. Soil is very wet and difficult to separate but thanks to our Reekie Cleanflow lifter, if it is dry overhead we can at least make some progress and bring in a relatively clean sample. So far crops have been excellent with good yields and quality. One field of Cultra is perhaps one of the best we have ever grown.

We have trialled a trailer with a hydraulic end door, a top of the range engineering masterpiece. Anything that reduces damage during potato harvesting is worth considering so this is something else to add to next years shopping list. It is getting rather long, given current returns.

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

WE have finished harvest, but with the plough not the combine. Eventually, less than half an acre of wheat went uncut and we managed to combine over 60% of the peas.

However, 8ha (20 acres) of Badminton were unsalvageable and we ploughed them in which is not good for cash-flow or morale. The knock-on effect is a seriously delayed sowing season, with some barley and a number of fields of wheat still to drill.

Financially, things would have been near critical but for cash from non-farming assets which has eased our debt burden. I have every confidence in the farming industry but we operate in a cyclical market and for the past few years have felt land and tenancies were at unrealistic levels.

There may be opportunities to invest in the future, but sadly many will be through others misfortune. Right now I am more concerned about the economic and mental health of farmers in Northumberland than ever before.

Milling wheats did not hit bushel weight targets and all my wheat is about 70kg/hl. Consequently we only feel safe selling it with a fall-back to 68 kg/hl. We sold some spot in Oct at £70/t, and 200t forward at £80/t for February/March movement. I am not that confident of a bounce back in prices so have sold 50t of next years crop at £75t for September.

At the end of last month I had the opportunity to discuss The European Model of Agriculture at the Annual Congress of European Agriculture in Slovenia, and stopped off in Brussels on the way back home, to be briefed by the NFU on the latest issues. The conclusions are that we are at the bottom of several commodity cycles, Europe is rich, farmers are needed, the Treasury runs government, and the rural economy will become multi-functional. I am not planning to change the way I farm, but other people must make their own business decisions.

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