27 August 1999


Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 330ha (815-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

HARVEST is a complete contrast to last year, for all the right reasons.

Standing crops, good yields, fine weather and firm ground have made it a happy affair so far. Of course prices are still poor, but when quantity and quality abound they are much easier to swallow.

Regina winter barley yielded 8.3t/ha (3.4t/acre) at 3% screenings, and Muscat did 9t/ha (3.6t/acre) in the best field. Even our poorest field did 7.9t/ha (3.2t/acre) with a 64kg/hl specific weight.

Oilseed rape results were a mixed bag. Herald did well at 4.2t/ha (34 cwt/acre) despite some poor headlands, but Synergy has disappointed at only 3.3t/ha (26cwt/acre). We are drilling next years crop with Herald as the main variety. Gemini will be grown on 12ha (30 acres), so I have not completely lost faith in hybrids.

Again I am impressed by the performance of our Lemken Terra-disc. Despite rock-hard soil, penetration was good on two passes made in front of the power harrow/drill combination. Had we ploughed, much effort would have been needed to get a satisfactory seed-bed and drilling speed would have been much slower. I reckon the saving on our heavy land is over £30/ha (£12/acre). Our biggest problem with this method of establishment is volunteer barley, which must be sprayed very early before it chokes out the rape. Here there is not time to create a stale seed-bed.

Spring barley harvest is underway. Optic has given our best and our worst yields so far, estimated at 6.3t/ha (2.5t/acre) and 5t/ha (2t/acre). Chariot is averaging just under 6t/ha (2.4t/acre) with good-quality and low screenings.

The drainage contractor has just arrived to re-drain 2ha (5 acres) where the old system is completely clapped out. That is a tiny fraction of the area which really should be done, but the astronomical cost is very hard to justify. However, big yields are the key to success and to achieve them everything must be in order. At least we are making a start. &#42

Harvest is progressing well at Edrington Mains, Berwickshire, for Jim Macfarlane. Winter barley and oilseed rape are in, and spring barley cutting well under way.

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

FREQUENT heavy showers have delayed cutting wheat for the best part of a fortnight.

Only 28ha (70 acres) have been done so far, about 25% of our wheat acreage, and with wheat, peas and linseed left to cut for neighbouring farmers, we are getting a tad frustrated.

Of the wheats we have in the barn, none were cut at less than 18% moisture and it looks likely to be an expensive drying year. Against that yields look promising with Charger as a second wheat giving 9.3t/ha (3.8t/acre). First wheat Hussar after winter oilseed rape looks to be close to 10t/ha (4t/acre), but we have only just started the crop. Specific weights are not known, but with a good bold sample they should be high.

Our winter oilseed rape harvest must go down as one of the easiest. Within eight days of swathing we had finished. Full marks to the local contractor for leaving an easy combining, relatively lump-free, swath. Yield was about 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre), with moisture content under 8%. As Apex yields are becoming outclassed hybrid Pronto is next years variety, though I have to admit we are playing into the breeders hands, as we will be unable to home-save seed in future.

Elan peas were brought home during the last of the good weather in early August. Despite moisture content down to 12% they have kept their colour well and we hope for a small premium for micro- nising. Normally peas do about 5t/ha (2t/acre) here, but the yield this year was only 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre), our lowest ever. Causes could be multiple, but I suspect a near full-rate post-emergence dose of Pulsar (bentazone + MCPB) which checked the crop would have been better applied as a split dose. Dropping our normal herbicide, Basagran (bentazone), on cost grounds could have been a false economy.

Now we all need 2-3 weeks of settled weather to gather in the rest of our years efforts – as cheaply as possible. &#42

With only 25% of his wheat cut, and neighbours crops to cut too, Andrew Hebditch is "a tad frustrated" after nearly a fortnights harvest hold-up due to the weather at Coat, near Martock, Somerset.

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


LIKE everybody else we were well ahead with work and it looked as though harvest, with the exception of some spring beans, would be over by mid-August.

But two weeks of rain have brought us back down to earth. Combining with contractors has gone well so far and we are half way through our wheat acreage. Yields are high, but quality is variable and will only get worse after this latest wet spell.

After some initial worries about the ability of our 360hp Ford FW60 to pull the 5.4m 23C Simba progressive discs with the 6.5m culti-press behind, all now seems well.

Very hard, dry ground was the problem, and while we had plenty of power, the eight 20.9 x 38 tyres could not get sufficient grip, especially on the chopped rape stubble. On the rain-softened surface tyre cleats are biting, and we are going on a lot better. Now the problem is that the rain does not know when to stop.

Our new Simba 6m Free-flow drill arrives on the Aug 23, and we still hope to drill oilseed rape before the end of the month. That is provided we can clear and cultivate behind the remaining wheat in time.

The slug situation, which was always going to be difficult this year, is now potentially disastrous. I believe the best approach should always be to produce conditions that do not favour them: Good, firm seed-beds, plenty of tilth and drilling cereal seed to about 4cm (1.5 in). Drilling a little deeper usually gets you under the surface clods and into tilth, where it is more difficult for slugs to find the seed. Drilling into moisture and rolling to conserve it helps the seed germinate quickly, minimising the slug susceptible period. We will attempt to reduce slug numbers as far as possible pre-drilling, especially after oilseed rape, with a timely application of Mini Pellets (metaldehyde) 2-3 weeks pre-drilling of wheat. &#42

Rain has been a mixed blessing for Northants grower Justin Blackwood: Traction for the Ford FW60 is much better, but only half the wheat is cut.

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

LAST months report of our early start to combining has deteriorated with our wettest August in memory.

As of Aug 19 we have had over 200mm (7.9in) of rain, including 50mm (2in) in one rapid hit on Aug 16. The hail in that storm caused some shedding of wheat, but, thankfully, all are still standing. No doubt our agronomist, Bryce, will claim this is due to the chemistry we have applied!

When combining re-starts, our grain drier will come into its own, fired up by ever more expensive fuel. That is a cost we could well do without, but at least the ground will be cleared, ready for next years crops.

We will increase our oat acreage, cutting out barley completely, as yet again oats have outyielded barley and are less expensive to grow. Only feed wheat will be grown, as we seem to be unable to get protein levels needed for bread wheats.

This autumn, for the first time, we are going to try nutrient mapping. ProFarmas GPS quad-bike service will be used on a couple of fields to see if there is scope to balance nutrients more accurately. I hope that will cut our fertiliser costs and pinpoint any deficiencies.

The cost works out at about £3.60/ha a year (£1.45/acre a year), working on a one-in-six year sampling cycle. I have said to ProFarma agronomist Phil Edenborough that we will see how the first two fields come in before doing the whole farm.

Still with technology, Bryce is updating his computer system to print out crop recommendations via computer, and, if we had a computer, send them on e-mail. Rather belatedly I suspect this development will drag us into the computer age. By using the same programme our record keeping and costings will be more efficient, which, I have to admit, is becoming ever more necessary given current returns.

Coming back down to earth from cyber-space, the sun is shining and I must catch up with the routine blight spraying on our potatoes. &#42

Technology is on the menu at Hall Farm, for Shropshire farmer Lloyd Jones. GPS soil mapping is booked and a switch to E-mail crop recommendations is on the cards.

See more