FARMERFOCUS

26 March 1999




FARMERFOCUS

James Moldon

James Moldon manages the

220ha (550 acres) heavy

land Stanaway Farm, Otley,

Suffolk, for the Felix

Thornley Cobbold

Agricultural Trust.

Crops include winter wheat,

barley, OSR, beans, linseed

and sugar beet

SPRING seems to be here at last. Cereals have received 40kg/ha (32units/acre) of nitrogen as urea, and some late-drilled wheat had a second 40kg/ha to ensure no tillers are lost. Chlormequat is going on at 1.75 litres/ha as crops reach GS30. Weather delayed application on early sown wheats and they are already causing lodging concerns.

Winter linseed had 20kg/ha (16 units/acre) of nitrogen to stimulate some early spring growth but no more at this stage as too much would result in lodging. It has also had 15g/ha of Ally (metsulfuron-methyl) plus 20g/ha of Eagle (amidosulfuron) with a wetter to help control the volunteer oilseed rape and masses of chickweed.

Autocast oilseed rape is getting going and the stubble is starting to disappear under a canopy of green leaves. Unfortunately some are volunteer wheat, which will be treated with Falcon (propaquizafop) at 0.3 litres/ha. The rest of the rape will be treated for sowthistles and blackgrass with 0.2 litres/ha of Dow Shield (clopyralid) and Laser (cycloxidim) at 0.6 litres/ha. While price prospects are so bleak the aim is to do the bare minimum.

Morley Research Centre has done plant counts on some of the Eco-Tillage trials. Minimum tillage disc and press is compared to direct drilling and conventional establishment techniques. The aim was to produce 200 plants/sq m and six months later there are no real differences to be found. The average counts are all just under or over that target figure. We will have to wait until harvest to see if there are any yield differences.

All remaining cereals will be treated with chlormequat and hopefully a re-rolling of second wheats will be possible soon. Sugar beet will be planted when conditions permit but it is still pretty wet underfoot here.

By the time you read this we will have had a Morley sprayer technology day with five sprayer manufacturers represented and over 100 members expected. I, for one, am eager to see the latest equipment and techniques in action. &#42

Second wheats are due a re-roll as well as chlormequat, but first wheats are too lush already, says Stanaway Farm manager James Moldon.

Leonard Morris

Leonard Morris is tenant at

206ha (510 acre) White

House Farm, South Kyme

Fen, Lincoln. His heavy land

grows winter wheat and

oilseed rape and spring peas

and linseed. Lighter ground is

cropped with potatoes,

spring rape and linseed

LAST month I said the ground was drying out and we were hoping to be working the land shortly.

Well here we are four weeks later and I am in practically the same position. In the last 10 days of Febraury, 20mm (0.8 in) of rain prevented any cultivations. I did get the undrilled wheat land sprayed with 1 litre/ha of Roundup (glyphosate) to clean it up ready for drilling. Then with 54mm (2.1in) of rain in the first half of March the land drains were running again and water standing on some fields.

Now work on the lighter land in the area has just started and if the weather remains dry for a few more days I will risk going on to top-dress the wheat and oilseed rape. Fortunately most of the crops in the ground look to be in reasonable condition, despite the lack of fertiliser. If at all possible I will avoid working in as wet conditions as last spring as the soil structure will suffer even more this time.

Our new International Agricultural Exchange student, this year from Alberta, Canada, has arrived. He is from a 485ha (1200 acre) farm, growing cereals, peas and canola. They usually rear some beef cattle as well. Lots of snow there this winter means they will have plenty of moisture at sowing time, but like us their main problem is poor grain prices. So far he has only been able to help with general farm work as we have not managed to get a tractor onto the fields.

We have been steadily moving grain out of the store, selling a bit each month. Most of it seems to have gone in the £70-£75/t price range this season and I expect to have practically cleared the wheat by the end of the month. That will leave the last of the oilseed rape to sell which is not a happy market at present. &#42

Early March saw drains gushing again, and water standing in some fields. Now it is drying up again, but it is still to wet to get on Leonard Morriss heavy Lincs land.

Bill Harbour

Bill Harbour is manager for

GosmereFarm Partners at

448ha (1107 acre) Gosmere

Farm, Sheldwich, Faversham,

Kent. Crops include wheat,

barley, oilseed rape, peas

and beans plus

cherries under the

Countryside Stewardship

scheme

IT has been really spring-like recently and we have been cracking on. With any luck by the time you read this we will have drilled some spring oilseed rape, 54ha (133 acres) of peas, and given the winter oilseed rape its main dose of nitrogen. I expect we will pay the price later as March should be cold and windy.

During such lovely weather I really shouldnt take time off the farm. But on Tuesday last week I met Peter Thompson of the Game Conservancy, Paul Cobb of Kent FWAG and the estates agents Strutt and Parker to discuss the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and in particular headland management.

Our cherry orchard has been in the Historic Landscape Scheme for six years, as has the estates environmental jewel in the crown, a 40ha (100 acre) dry chalk valley. Part of that is now designated a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI). The plan is to extend wildlife corridors from this with new hedges, 2m and 6m grass headland strips, and filling gaps in existing hedges. Some chalky banks sown with grass and wild flowers under set-aside will be put into "arable conversion", taking them out of production permanently.

All that should enhance the estate and encourage game as well as wildlife. But with the scheme apparently 50% over-subscribed we must get the plans right to stand a chance of getting the cash.

Technology is a rude word here this week. Our new electric Ecomatic closed-transfer spray system has been taking 15min to empty a 25-litre keg, not the four minutes claimed. We have been promised it will be put right by Cyanamid. But if these returnable kegs are to become an industry standard, then the design needs attention too. Handling, let alone shaking, over 25kg (56lb) of keg with sharp edges is not easy. Perhaps I am getting old and soft, but I much prefer 25g (1oz) to 25kg. &#42

Kent farm manager Bill Harbour took a day out from spring work to tackle Countryside Stewardship plans. With the scheme oversubscribed, applications will have to be spot on, he says.

Mike Cumming

Mike Cumming is manager at

Lour Farms, Ladenford,

Forfar, Angus, where spring

malting barley and seed

potatoes occupy about half

the 749ha (1850 acres).

Other crops include winter

wheat, barley and oats,

oilseed rape, swedes and

grass

ANOTHER solid month of seed potato grading leaves us with the lowest tonnage in store at this stage in the season for many a year. It is just as well too, as mini-chits are appearing on the early varieties in our ambient store.

The SE1 input seed for our own use was graded and placed in cold storage back in December. All my input stocks are Fungazil (imazalil) treated. Varieties that produce low tuber numbers, such as Maris Bard, are also treated with Rovral (iprodione). Past experience shows this increases tuber numbers.

Mid-March brought a semblance of spring and the drill was pressed into action, starting with Optic on Mar 16. It is the latest maturing variety of the 263ha (650ha) of spring barley we have to plant. We plan to drill 55ha (136 acres) of Optic, 40ha (99 acres) of Prisma, and the remainder with Chariot plus a small Chalice trial.

Optic, a newcomer to Lour, will hopefully improve our average spring barley yield which seems to be static at about 5.9t/ha (2.38t/acre). Due to the shortage of seed, half came from Denmark and I was surprised to find the Danish Optic recording a thousand grain weight of 51g against 44g for the UK seed. Drilling rates will be adjusted accordingly, aiming to achieve 325 plants/ sq m.

Nationally a surge in spring barley output this summer seems inevitable as a result of the corresponding reduction in winter wheat area. Being realistic I see oversupply and low malting premiums as a real threat. Fearful of this scenario and encouraged by better cattle prices, I have decided to cut our spring barley area. Some 30ha (74 acres) of grass destined for the plough will now be grazed instead.

Falling cereal prices mean gross margins from grass fed cattle once more compete with spring barley in lower yielding fields. Being a mixed farm with over 425 head of cattle at least we have that option, helping us to live with the situation. &#42

Mike Cumming has started drilling spring barley at Lour Farms, Angus. But he plans to cut back the area because price prospects arent good, he reckons.


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