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
LAST month I mentioned the millennium hype that has overtaken the world of doom and gloom. Now, a government department has issued a plethora of paperwork on the "unavailability or malfunction of estates equipment". It states potential problems and remedial action to take. For example: Hand dryers – ensure paper hand towels available; Heating – have blankets available; Hoovers and cleaners – use brushes, mops and/or carpet cleaners; Kettles – do without hot drinks or ask local staff to bring hot drinks in for all. Are any employees treated as if they have some common sense any more?
One large business in Doncaster appears to have an early millennium problem. I received a letter dated May 14 1999 which stated: "In our constant drive to improve efficiency and responsiveness to both our customers and suppliers we intend to begin making payments by electronic transfer. Since this method of payment will be available from the end of November 1998 a prompt response would be appreciated." It was signed The IT Manger.
Farmers are often accused of looking over hedges when driving around the countryside. Well I have found a way of doing this from the farm office. From web site http://terraserver. microsoft.com it is possible to download a satellite picture of any farm taken by a Soviet sputnik spy satellite. Looking at the picture of my farm for May 22 last year I could see ponding and rivulets, poorly established crops and swollen watercourses. By comparison my fields now look very good, which cheered me up no end.
As we strive to apply less or better-targeted inputs to crops, I thought I would trial Hydros N Sensor on a field of wheat. The literature describes it as "a sensor and software system which operates on the move measuring light reflectance from the crop, translating this into an optimal nitrogen application rate." Enthusiastic contractor Clive Blacker has twice applied nitrogen with this space-age technology and may or may not be back a third time. The quantities applied astounded me – I hope the harvest verifies the literatures claims.
Mike Rowlands 141ha
(350-acre) Bowden Farm,
Burbage, Wilts, is in organic
conversion with 32ha (80
acres) going fully organic in
Oct 99. Potatoes, carrots,
wheat and peas will rotate
with grass for suckler cows.
At Amesbury 404ha (1000
acres) is in conventional
RECENTLY, GMOs have had a big press. The public have answered forcefully and firmly. Should we ban it entirely? Conventional farmers might say not. But, if testing is to continue, this must be done under more stringent conditions, and from my point of view, far from any organic farm. However, I believe the biggest issue is that the seed and spray will only be available from one or two multinational, £bn businesses.
At a recent Soil Association meeting attended by seed merchants, farmers and many other interested bodies there was much concern about organic seed supplies. The current derogation allowing conventionally grown seed to be used runs out in 2000. Next planting season fewer derogations will be allowed and we need committed seed growers and merchants to get together now. I would be pleased to hear from anyone on this.
Now I have got the seed issue and GMOs off my chest, some news of the farm. My grass, although very reluctant to grow initially, is ready to be cut for big bale silage with the help of a kind neighbour. It will be interesting to see how the different seed mixtures perform. Should I have put more red clover in the mix? How do we control weeds leaving the best possible habitat for wildlife?
The potatoes are coming through well and evenly, reflecting the big investment in the new planter.
Thankfully, the frenzy of IACS form filling is over. The form went in in good time but referring to five different reference books from previous years was tedious. The ministry should issue a new single book each year, with highlighted changes. That could greatly reduce mistakes made.
Having grazed two fields with the new suckler herd it was time to move them across the bypass. But doing this on foot risked them ending up all over Wiltshire, so reluctantly I purchased a cattle trailer. After the move in this fearsome machine the girls were rewarded with a very eager Aberdeen-Angus bull
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
MAY is dominated by the brassica module raising enterprise here, and we aim to produce 24m plants this year. These are mostly winter cauliflower and cabbage grown on contract for local growers.
Nearly two-thirds need delivering in early July, which means they must be seeded and laid out in the polytunnels here in early May. Planting out dates for these crops are critical, so my brother who runs this enterprise has used all the available farm staff and taken on extra casual labour to get finished on time.
Cereals are now growing rapidly. They do not look too bad after the ravages of the autumn and winter, though some wheat tiller counts are a little lower than I would like. We have just applied 0.5 litres/ha of Mantra (kresoxim-methyl + epoxiconazole + fenpropimorph) at GS39, bringing the total to 1.2 litres/ha. We plan to use a triazole at ear emergence.
Crown rust has been developing in the winter oats, a disease we suffer from every year, and have just applied 0.25 litres/ha of Alto (cyproconazole). I expect to repeat it again in a couple of weeks. The winter barley is now flowering, and still clean after a single application of Amistar (azoxystrobin) and Corbel (fenpropimorph) at GS37.
For several years Stewart our sprayer operator has been given the spray instructions on an A4 form designed for the purpose off our database. It includes all details which are required to be completed each time he goes spraying, as well as the spray recommendations. Joining ACCS prompted a redesign to include several more records.
Now LERAP has appeared. I have still not worked out how another load of requirements are going to fit on one sheet, and still leave room for its original purpose – to tell him what to spray and where. Stewart has already asked for a secretary to help with all the spraying paperwork. I wonder what will be the next demand on our simple recommendation sheet?
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
HAVING grown up on this farm producing high quality malting barley of the type sought after by British brewers for the past 200 years, I now feel like a dinosaur. A relic of a fast disappearing age. The new malting market buzz-term is "higher acceptable N levels". That could be read as "lower premiums".
Fine malting barley with appropriate premiums, and sugar beet, have been the foundation of this farms profitability. They paid the rent and kept the farm in good health. For the past two years, in common with most farming enterprises, they are under attack. Every time the pounds value soars our beet price falls. The malting industry is saddled with very high domestic excise duty as well as the crippling exchange rate.
This situation shows no rays of a revival yet, as our government seems a slave to service industries fortunes, totally indifferent to manufacturing industries woes.
Weed beet appear especially prolific this year so the hoe is a must. We have found some longer L-blades which are made by a local blacksmith. That means we can dispense with our old A-blades that ran behind the former L-blades and did a good job of windrowing the stones into the rows of beet – exactly where we do not want them.
While rain fell in early May we made a wheelmark eradicator from an old beet plough frame and two old cultivator stems and points. It will remove the deep wheelings made by our post-em sprayer passes. If these are not dealt with beet grow at drunken angles into them making efficient harvesting very difficult.
Triticale has broken down to yellow rust again. Next season it must be a more resistant variety or we will give up the crop. Spring barley is getting copper which helps grain fill on our deficient soils. On the winter barley Amistar (azoxystrobin) plus or minus Lyric (flusilazole) for rhynchosporium control is being applied as a T2. Over and out from Jurassic Park Farm, Norfolk.