12 February 1999


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

A visit from a MAFF pollution consultant has focused Lloyd Joness attention on the use of slurry and manure on his Shropshire farm.

A WET January gave us time to tackle some repairs and maintenance round the yard and now we are working out fertiliser plans.

Son Stuart has collected up and repaired all the damaged 1t potato boxes accumulated over the years. One wonders where £600 worth of new boards have gone. But at least all the boxes are now mended. The Accord pneumatic drill is sporting a few new spares and the potato planting equipment is ready to go. It is strange how after just a few dry days thoughts start to turn to spring.

Time and weather prevented any phosphate or potash applications on winter sowings last autumn, so as soon as conditions permit we will get the spreader out. None will be applied to first wheats after potatoes, but the rest will receive 50kg/ha (40 units/acre) and 75kg/ha (60 units/acre) of P and K, respectively.

All this years potato fields will soon receive manure and slurry. The fertiliser value of this is taken into account using the MAFF booklet standard values. But we are considering having it analysed in the future as we are in one of the six areas selected for the National Initiative for Farm Waste Management.

That means our applications of waste from the dairy enterprise are under scrutiny and I was somewhat concerned prior to the voluntary visit by the MAFF pollution consultant. But his visit proved a great help with filling in the risk assessment required.

The exercise has raised my awareness to both nutrient values and the potential water pollution risks here in the Rea Valley catchment area. Our land has been divided into colour coded areas ranging from no spread zones within 10m of ditches, water courses, wells and boreholes, to land where, with suitable care, spreading can be done at any time of the year.

So is spring just around the corner or more likely winter about to start? I am not sure which would be best for the farm – but only time will tell.

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

770ha (1900 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


The UK landscape has a price, and it is not the world price, says Northants grower Justin Blackwood.

EVEN with our higher yields in the UK we cannot compete with the low cost production of the bread-basket nations of the world. With the British countryside as it presently exists production at todays world prices is just not viable.

I do not believe the British public want the countryside to look like an American wheat prairie, or an Argentinean plain. Most farmers would not enjoy farming these large open expanses of land either, though there are exceptions. Mr Hepworth perhaps?

We do need food, and we do need a surplus. Without it prices would rocket and trade barriers to retain stocks would appear overnight regardless of World Trade Organisation agreements.

However, it takes tens of thousands of men, machines and livestock to maintain the countryside in its present glory. If we are to retain that, then farmers must be paid to do so. The payments we receive should be directly related to the adopted programme of countryside management.

Higher payments should be made for smaller fields, with a ceiling field size of 10ha (25 acres). Hedges could be planted to reduce field sizes, hence increasing payment levels. Tree planting would be supported.

Uncropped field boundaries and buffer zones abutting water should also attract payments. Limiting annual levels of inorganic fertilisers, chemicals used, and using bio-diesel should be financially recognised, as might spring cropping, reducing cultivations, and over-wintering stubble.

The public has always paid to see and experience any managed environment which has an upkeep cost. So why should the countryside be any different? A set compensation rate for public access might be set up.

Income from cropping and livestock enterprises would supplement these payments. The produce would be to the quality assurance standards that we as UK consumers demand, and hopefully buy in preference to imports from unknown production systems.

What farmed countryside looks better than the UK? We must maintain and further improve that landscape. But production on world terms in that environment is just not viable.

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

Grain movements left Borders farmer Jim Macfarlane with an empty feeling. Now spring cropping is the concern.

SADLY our grain store is now empty. The last of our wheat and oilseed rape moved earlier this month at £68-80/t ex farm for the wheat and £154/t for the rape.

These are low prices for sure, but the biggest thorn in our side has been the pathetically small quantities we had to sell. Wheat output is 230t down on what we would expect in a normal year. That is off only 70ha (170 acres). Had the yield been decent we could have sold at £50/t and still be no worse off. Once again it proves the importance of good yields; a big heap wins every time.

Last month I mentioned my interest in pursuing Integrated Crop Management principles here at Edrington Mains. The next step should be to choose lower input varieties. But in the light of last harvests experience we cant sacrifice much yield or the figures will not add up. Even at these grain prices 10% extra yield buys a lot of chemical and fertiliser.

Some decisions have been taken regarding spring cropping.

Barley varieties will be Maresi, Optic and Chariot. The Maresi is on a high nitrogen contract for distilling and will go on the heaviest land plus ground where we were unable to sow wheat after oilseed rape. Where we will be following spring barley with oilseed rape next autumn Chariot is preferred to Optic as it is that little bit earlier.

I must be quite insane, but I am considering a field of peas again this spring. They are a very good break crop and I want to reduce our area of second wheats. I will try to forget last years harvest horrors.

As we have no light land to plant I dont expect to be drilling until well into March this spring. I am nervous about the spring barley on heavy land but after last autumn we are left with little choice. Lets hope it is a favourable growing season.

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

Somerset grower Andrew Hebditch loaded 300t of wheat out in January. The price was not unreasonable, he says.

WE HAD hoped for a better start to 1999. But in the event it was a wetter start. Rainfall in January was 127mm (5 in). Needless to say no field work was done.

We did move 300t of wheat to a local buyer at £84/t delivered. A price which, all things considered, is not unreasonable and certainly better than those quoted at harvest. The first load out, being the last in, suffered deductions of £7.50/t due to 69 kg/hl specific weight.But all the other loads were OK, thankfully.

This month, 100t of English-sourced SP5 ammonium nitrate should be delivered at a maximum price of £89/t. Prices have not come back since the deal was agreed, so I expect that is what we will have to pay. But it is always reassuring to put a ceiling on the deal.

For the first time ever, we have had to apply slug pellets in February. About 1ha (2.5 acres) in three or four patches has been grazed quite severely, so the quad bike has been spot treating these areas with a half rate of methiocarb.

A cold spell to slow cereal growth, weather ploughed ground and slow up the slugs is desperately needed. In the middle of February that is looking less likely by the day. But stranger things have been known to happen with our English weather.

On the other hand a cold snap could spell disaster for the block of oilseed rape away from the farm. It is the only rape crop for miles around and thousands of pigeons have descended on it. Shooting twice a week backed up by gas guns the rest of the time has limited damage so far, but it is touch and go. If the current dry spell continues we will get some nitrogen on as soon as it arrives.

Sadly we missed the last of Oliver Walstons series on the subject of needless subsidies: we were busy spending ours on holiday in Switzerland.

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