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
WHAT a difference a month makes in weather terms – we have been flooded once already and I expect by the time you read this, the River Swale will be over the grassland areas again.
Thankfully, we finished lifting potatoes on Oct 15, just before the rains.
Early April planted Saturna yielded about 42t/ha (17t/acre), whereas the May planted crop did over 52t/ha (21t/acre). Eden Transport from High Hesledon have excelled themselves, keeping us supplied with bulkers and getting them delivered on time, ably assisted by the Riseholme KP staff. Thank you, and thanks, too, to all the team at Howe who have helped make this one of our easiest lifting times. This is no consolation to all the poor potato farmers still struggling to lift in these appalling conditions and you have my greatest sympathy.
Our Reekie Cleanflow 2000 system helped enormously and I just wish the Dahlman roller system had been invented years ago. With the weather market that has developed for lifters, I was tempted to change to a 1999 model, despite having only 160ha (400 acres) of use. But the £18,000 price I was offered for my immaculate machine insulted my intelligence and it was one deal I was easily able to refuse.
At the recent Great North Meet conference, French alpine dairy farmer Joel Baud-Grasset brought the house down. In response to the question "Why are French farmers better appreciated and looked after by their government than the English?" he turned to Elliot Morley and said that he didnt understand. In France they only had one minister of agriculture where we have four, therefore we should get four times the allowances from the EU. A simplistic notion but telling of French attitudes! Andrew Gloag and Brian McLaughlin also gave excellent papers.
Congratulations to Brian Jefferson, who has just achieved 25 years at Howe as estate manager, including 10 years of looking after Kevin! Thank you to you and your wife, Carol. *
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
AFTER nearly 130mm (5 in) of rain in October we have just completed the drilling programme.
Some of our fields are so bad they look like the aftermath of Glastonbury.
Despite the conditions, most wheats are now up and in rows. All of them have been treated with mini-pellets (metaldehyde) at a rate of 12.5kg/ha (11lb/acre). Having had a good look at the crops yesterday, I was surprised how little slug damage there has been so far. Only 4ha (10 acres) of a 12ha (30-acre) field has had to have a second dose.
That shows the benefit of a fine seed-bed when it comes to slug control. The field in question was disced once and then the roughest part was cultivated again with the Einbock spring-tine cultivator. Where this was done slugs have been no problem and I can see to the line the difference that second operation has made. I now regret my impatience at not doing the whole field. At least it is not by the road.
Wheats on the heavier ground are due for Avadex Excel (tri-allate) at 15 kg/ha (13 lb/acre), to be followed up by 2.5 litres/ha of Hawk (clodinafop-propargyl + trifluralin) plus 1 litre/ha Panther (diflufenican + ipu). On the lighter land at home we will be putting on 3 litres/ha ipu plus 1 litre/ha of Ardent (diflufenican + trifluralin).
Boston oilseed rape is looking extremely well, possibly too well! Mike, our agronomist, noticed some phoma on the crop yesterday and for the first time has recommended we use a fungicide to treat it. Hence we will be spraying it with 0.5 litres/ha of PunchC (flusilazole + carbendazim) and, I hope, avoid lodging problems next harvest.
That said, none of the above work has been done due to the incredibly wet conditions. I hope we do not have to rewrite the recommendation book as a result. *
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
FIELD work ground to a very definite halt in mid-Oct; we still have winter cereals to drill, and, more importantly, a backlog of spraying to catch up on.
Everything sown so far has emerged and is not looking too bad considering the conditions are more suited to rice than wheat. Herbicide and aphicide needs to go on, and Gramoxone (paraquat) should have been applied to the daffodils three weeks ago. It is now too late for some varieties, as leaves are coming through and we have even found a lone flower in one field.
The arable standstill has released extra labour for lambing, which is proceeding briskly, with nearly half the 1200 strong flock now lambed. Although rain and gales have been persistent, the temperature has not been overly cold and the turned out lambs do not seem too miserable.
Eucalyptus is proving an exciting crop to grow, with astounding differences in growth rates according to how varieties suit our conditions. Last summer we planted our first 5000 seedlings, grown from seed in the brassica module raising unit. Hand weed-wiping with glyphosate is an improvement on weed control, but rather labour-intensive. Previously ATV-applied inter-row paraquat tended to drift and scorch leaves.
We have just started cutting and selling the first stems of foliage from the saplings, some of which are now 3m (10ft) tall. As with any new crop where information is limited, much of what we are doing is trial and error. Sharing information in a growing and marketing group of growers in Devon and Cornwall is helping smooth the way.
I hope the weather will soon improve so we can get on with landwork. My target finish date of Bonfire Night for drilling autumn cereals has already passed, but fortunately crops do not normally suffer too badly from late drilling here in Cornwall. None the less, it will be a relief to get finished. *
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
OCTOBER rainfall at Branthill was 132mm, well over 5 in, including a storm of 20mm (0.8in) in half an hour on Oct 27. Sugar beet harvesting has been disrupted, but we have managed to lift 81ha (200 acres) in our group and finished autumn drilling before the recent monsoon-like weather set in.
One good long spraying day was snatched and Autumn Kite (ipu + trifluralin), Javelin (ipu + diflufenican) and an aphicide went on to the earliest drilled cereals. Since then it has either been too wet or too windy for any spraying.
In September, sugar beet off our best land produced an adjusted sugar content of 57.8t/ha (23.4 t/acre). That is good for Branthill, but as usual was exceeded by my neighbour, John Temple, with whom we are sharing an ex-demonstration Tim three-row harvester with tank.
The tank is proving its worth and saving manpower in this seasons sodden conditions, but fragile front rotor-blades were causing a lot of unnecessary downtime. Talking to Tim Harvesters at Beet UK, we discovered that a faulty batch of import blades were to blame, and a solid set of second-hand ones has solved the problem.
IACS cheques have been landing on doormats all around us, but yet again it looks like Branthill is bottom of MAFFs list, despite a field inspection last summer. On Nov 2 my patience was wearing thin, so I phoned MAFF at Cambridge. To my horror I was informed that there was a glitch in the computer system, and growers who had received a field inspection could not be paid.
After a week of phone calls to various parties I am now assured that the problem is resolved, and we will be paid by Nov 24. While this is a relief, it does seem an incredibly arbitrary and unfair system. Why should we shoulder six weeks more interest payments on borrowings than other growers? Any chance of compensation, MAFF? *