18 December 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

WELLIES are still essential equipment here and unfortunately are seeing more use than our tractors.

Several blocked and damaged drains have been repaired but in one field we are really struggling. The field is peppered with wet areas and the shallow drains are completely choked. I am afraid the harvest finished them off with 15t combines lumbering over sodden soils. I am sure the hardy people who laid these systems never dreamt of such machines, even if they did allow for summers like 1998.

It looks like we must grit our teeth and re-drain at least part of that field despite the frightening cost. Good yields on our land are only possible with efficient drainage and if we assume a drainage scheme has a 100 year life then we should replace 2ha (5 acres) a year on average. Put another way, we should budget £20,000 every five years for draining work. Quite a scary thought that.

Our other main activity is logging dead elm trees for sale as firewood. We wont drain much land on the proceeds but it does help to pay the wages and it keeps us warm on these chilly days.

Most ploughing was done early in an effort to get land dry enough to drill but we still have 14ha (35 acres) left to plough and about 40% of our intended winter wheat area to plant. I know there is little chance at this stage but if we do get a dry spell I would like to reduce our seed mountain.

We have just had a load of wheat rejected from the distillers. Too low bushel weight, too hard and too much barley admixture, they said. I suggested to our merchant that a sample should have been taken but was told that there is rarely a problem with distilling wheat. After £7/t extra haulage another buyer was found.

I wish my scribblings could be more upbeat but it really is quite difficult to find something which has gone well this year. Lets hope 1999 is better.

Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones farms 175ha

(430 acres) at Hall Farm,

Westbury, Shropshire.

Cereals and potatoes are

rotated with grass and he is

an NFU council member.

Buildings house potato and

cereal seed dressing lines

DECEMBER arrived and for the first time in 20 years we still have potatoes in the ground. Despite pretty awful conditions last month we did battle through all the Fianna but we have 1ha (2.5 acre) of Maris Piper left.

A team from Kverneland with a 2-row 2600 harvester reckon they will have them out by the time you read this. By altering the roller separator and main web they are convinced they will succeed. Certainly our own star separation 2-row harvester cannot cope.

Earlier harvested Desiree and Pentland Squire are looking well in store and will hopefully make a packing sample after 3.5C (38F) boxed storage. Although accurate yields wont be known until everything is sold, crops seem to have done 40-50t/ha (16-20t/acre), which is not too bad.

This autumn has been very trying, so Smithfield was a welcome break for both Jill and I. Sundays attendance seemed excellent and credit goes to the organisers and exhibitors for a first rate show.

Our Manitou telescopic handler is coming up for replacement and I spent some time looking at the wide array of machines on offer. However, the only purchase so far is a new grain bucket for the old machine. How so little steel can cost so much I find amazing!

We also attended the launch of the joint NFU/MAFF initiative on collaborative marketing. Hosted by Nick Ross the message came over loud and clear that we as farmers have to address the marketing issue as apparently the gap between farmgate and retail food prices has trebled since 1995.

Back from the show and Bryce our crop consultant had written recommendations for the early sown wheats and barley. These have all been done with ipu plus a dash of diflufenican, cypermethrin and 1.25 litres/ha of manganese on the barley.

Recent cold weather has slowed down emergence of late sown cereals and we will need to keep an eye on the ever increasing number of rooks that seem to be about as 1999 approaches.

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

562ha (1389 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally


IT is hard to get back to the day-to-day business of farming in the UK just a day after returning from a six week drive from London to Cape Town.

We travelled through 24 countries and visited many of the natural wonders of the world. Many memories are flooding my mind, not least the 111m (365 ft) head-first bungie jump over the river Zambesi, claimed to be the longest natural bungie jump in the world.

Back at Grange Farm, with fog, rain, and a 30í drop in temperature, the holiday is certainly over. A quick look round the farm has reassured me that the crops are not too bad.

Oilseed rape has established well especially following chicken muck. We have not been able to apply autumn fungicides and a further disease assessment will be necessary when spraying conditions return. Pigeons are becoming a problem and we will have to remain vigilant, especially over Christmas.

Wheat looks good, with the earliest drilled at mid-tillering and the latest still in the bag. It is always difficult to decide when to stop drilling winter varieties and switch to spring. I think that unless conditions are good in early January, and that looks unlikely, then the decision to switch will be made with the turn of the year.

Winter peas are not yet drilled. They are on heavier ground and it looks like they, too, will now be spring drilled. The land is in good condition, worked early when dry and I am reasonably confident we will be able to plant them in good time, when conditions improve.

Land for 105ha (260 acres) of spring beans is ploughed, but we have not been able to knock it down as we would have liked. We will have to work land down in front of the drill in spring, which always slows the job up and usually results in missing any early drilling windows.

Happy Christmas and a prosperous new year to all.

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch farms

285ha (700 acres) of

owned, tenanted and

share-farmed land at Coat,

Martock, Somerset. Silt

and clay soils support

winter wheat, barley and

oilseed rape, plus spring

peas, linseed and beans

LAST months Met Office promise of a spell of improved weather turned out to be pretty accurate. November brought us 75mm (3in) of rain, mostly early in the month so December saw vastly improved ground conditions. Up to the end of November we have had 800mm (31.5in), up again on our long-term average of 710mm (28in) a year with a month still to go.

Terra tyres front and rear on our John Deere 6400 have kept us on top of the ground and workload. The autumn herbicide programme is finished with only a little rutting at the odd wet patch. Cereals had 2000-2500 g/ha of ipu with cypermethrin for aphid control and patches of wild oats and blackgrass are now showing the first signs of herbicide activity. With little leaching of ipu so far control promises to be good this year.

Light leaf spot and cabbage stem flea beetles meant another trip through 22ha (55 acres) of oilseed rape, with a mix of 0.25 litres/ha cypermethrin plus 0.3 kg/ha of carbendazim. Including slug pellet applications this field and a 12ha (30 acre) plot of heavy ground wheat have had five separate passes so I hope the gate is now firmly shut and padlocked until spring!

A 0-20-30 blend of P and K went on all wheats and barleys at 312kg/ha (2.5cwt/acre) and 250kg/ha (2cwt/acre) respectively. Concerning me most with using a blend is the unnecessary wear on the spreader due to adding stone road chippings to bulk it up. However, we have no choice as we cant get a compound anymore.

Last week I had an interesting day delivering lambs to the abattoir in the morning for £1.50kg/dw and then visiting Tesco in the afternoon with the wife to see cuts of lamb on sale at £5-£6.50/kg. Can someone please explain the 400% mark-up?

On that note I would like to say Happy Christmas and an extremely prosperous New Year to all, not just the supermarkets!


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