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
THE weather has been predominantly dry this month, much like last year. Then, I put off drilling linseed and oilseed rape until late March; after five weeks of rain we ended up puddling seed in early in May and sorely regretted the decision to delay.
So this year we drilled linseed on Mar 15 into good soil conditions. Hopefully it will grow away quickly but if a cold spell does slow it down the flea beetle seed-dressing should help it survive.
That is our only spring crop this year. Oilseed rape has been left out to gain rotational flexibility next year, and peas have been dropped because the gross margin potential is so poor.
Agenda 2000 reforms mean it could be our last year for linseed. The crop only appeared thanks to a Eurocrats pen and will disappear in the same way. But I am sad to see it go as it was a useful break crop. Pulses wont be viable either unless something drastic happens to their price. That leaves oilseed rape as our only spring break crop option.
Ones confidence in the body that makes these decisions, and influences our lives so much, is not helped by the farcical situation with the commissioners.
Daffodils may not be part of the CAP, but they are now tangled up in the politics too.
Cornish growers have invested time and money into meeting the demands of the US market for flowers and bulbs. But unfortunately these products are on the list of EU products which will be subject to punitive 100% import tariffs if the EU does not lift the import ban on US hormone-treated beef.
Though no daffodil produce from Fentongollan is sold to the US, it is an important and growing market for the Cornish industry. These sort of juvenile playground bully tactics may have been aimed at the Dutch, but if they are carried out it will affect all of us here in Cornwall. *
Daffodils are on Americas hit list for trade tariffs, which will be a major blow to the local industry, says Cornish grower James Hosking.
Teddy Maufe farms 407ha
(1000 acres) as the tenant
of Branthill Farm, part of
the Holkham Estate,
Sugar beet lies at the heart
of the rotation, with other
crops including winter
barley, wheat and oats,
spring barley and triticale
AS I write this in the last week of March we have still not drilled any sugar beet. The ground is just too wet below the surface. Short, dry windows in the weather keep being followed by heavy rain, so rightly or wrongly we have held off for fear of the seed-bed slumping.
In previous years even our lighter land has capped, usually when we have forced a seed-bed in damp conditions. But the days are lengthening, the soil temperature increasing, and we really want to be getting them in. The usual dilemma for sugar beet growers in a wet spring!
However, we have managed to apply some nitrogen to all our winter corn. Halcyon winter barley had 100kg/ha (80 units/acre) of nitrogen, while the Regina, chasing a higher nitrogen malting market had 125kg/ha (100 units/acre). Spring barleys have had nitrogen increased by 12-19kg/ha (10-15 units/acre) to try to achieve the higher grain nitrogen content the maltsters say they now require. It is odd for us to be doing that after 30 years of trying to keep them as low as possible.
While my back was turned preparing spring barley seed-beds rabbits attacked the winter crop. Three acres were severely grazed and though we have now dealt with the problem I am afraid some of the damage will still be evident at harvest.
Last years Gerald oats have just been delivered at £81/t and averaged a very respectable 8.4t/ha (3.4 t/acre).
The k shows no signs of gaining strength as member countries economies pull in different directions. That, coupled with the CAP reform, offers us no quick improvement to UK arable farming. It looks as if we must rumble on in this deep trough for a while longer.
As for the haulage side of the business, constant diesel price rises are squeezing the profit margins out of that too. I only hope the government takes heed of the valid protests of the road hauliers. *
All Teddy Maufes cereals have had some nitrogen, including a bit extra on the spring barley, at Holkham, North Norfolk. But it is still too wet for sugar beet drilling.
Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha
(600 acres) as Howe
Estates at Howe, Thirsk,
North Yorks. The medium
sandy loam in the Vale of
York supports potatoes,
winter wheat, rape and
barley, plus grass for sheep
IRRIGATORS! I wish I hadnt mentioned that word last month. We have had over 150mm (6in) in March and there are still five days of potentially full rain gauges to go. Since Oct 16 we have had a years worth of rain. That said, we did get nitrogen fertiliser to all the wheat at 42kg/ha (34 units/acre), barley at 62kg/ha (50 units/acre) and oilseed rape at 175kg/ha (140 units/acre).
Seed potatoes remain firmly in their 1.25t bags. It looks as if last years planting regime of work at weekends, rain in the week, will rule again.
We are planning fungicide programmes and obtaining quotes for sprays that we are likely to use. Again the availability of Amistar (azoxystrobin) is in question. Whilst I understand that the amenity trade may be more profitable than agriculture, why on earth do we all get bombarded with tapes, literature, pamphlets and adverts if the supply of the product is uncertain. I would rather have the product at a lower price, say £25/litre, and none of the literature that fills a potato sack in the corner of my office.
Presumably BASF will gain from this with Landmark (epoxiconazole + kesoxim-methyl) sales. And they deserve to for not filling my rubbish bin. With that approach the rain forest that spawned these products might last a little longer.
I have read the most balanced article I have seen yet on genetically modified foods. Written by Sir Robert May for the Office of Science and Technology it can be obtained on http://www.dti.gov. uk/ost/ostbusiness/gen.htm or from the DETR. I recommend it to all.
A good question posed is how long is intensive agriculture sustainable in the long run? We apparently spend 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to put one calorie of food on the table. One hundred years ago the ratio was 1:1, and in hunter-gatherer times it was one unit of energy for 10 on the table – or should that be cave floor? *
Heavy rain in March means seed potatoes are still in the bag at Howe Estates. But Kevin Littleboy has put time in the office to good use collecting chemical quotes and reading up on GMOs.
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
AT long last we have been able to get on. Having panicked for the past four months about all of the work ahead of us, we have caught up with ourselves.
Drilling of Optic spring barley has been completed, with the crop going into a good seed-bed. This has been on the easier soils of the downland with a seed rate of 325 seeds/sq m. Having waited for the conditions to be right for spreading the sewerage cake, we were able to disc and cultivate straight behind it, followed by drilling and rolling.
Jupiter spring linseed has also been sown with the same operations. However, the field which was due to have winter beans, then spring beans because we didnt get the winter ones in, is still too wet to be ploughed. By the time conditions are good enough to go it will be too late for any beans, so that will have to go into something else.
All bar the wettest fields of the winter wheat have had 44kg/ha (35 units/acre) of nitrogen. Oilseed rape has had a total of 125kg/ha (100 units/acre) so far with the remainder due to go on as soon as we can travel again, taking the total to 212kg/ha (170 units/acre).
We have also been able to complete our winter spray programme. The worst blackgrass fields had a spray of Topik (clodinafop-propargyl) at 0.125 litres/ha plus Galion adjuvant at 1.0 litres/ha. Those fields with a lower infestations received IPU at 3.0 litres/ha. We held back the nitrogen until this spray programme was complete as there seemed no point in feeding the weeds.
As this is my final instalment in the Farmer Focus columns, I would like to thank all of you who have read these articles. A special thank-you to those who have passed comments back to me – they were always welcome, and sometimes very helpful for the farm and my writing. I wish you all good luck for this and future harvests. *
We have caught up, says Wilts grower Dennis Ford, in this his last Farmer Focus column. Oilseed rape is ready for its final nitrogen.