FARMERFOCUS

10 September 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

AT last harvest is finished, with the combine showing signs of fatigue after a fairly demanding campaign.

Savannah out-yielded all wheat varieties, with one 24ha (60-acre) field doing 12.5t/ha (5.1t/acre). Overall, it averaged 12t/ha (4.9t/acre), followed by Claire at 11.3t/ha (4.6t/acre) and Consort at 10.2t/ha (4.1t/acre).

First and second wheat establishment trials have been harvested and the data is being analysed. First signs are that there is little difference between the plough and Eco-tillage systems.

Oilseed rape drilling is well under way. Again comparisons will be made between Autocast, direct drilling and conventional establishment. All will be drilled at 4kg/ha (3.6lb/acre) and receive 3kg/ha of Draza (methiocarb), followed by a second application if necessary. Apex, Escort and Madrigal are the main varieties, with two new varieties on trial from Novartis and one dwarf type from CPB Twyford.

After a weeks dry weather, these Hanslope soils are already cracking on the surface. There is plenty of moisture underneath, but moisture retention is vital as the dry spell seems set to continue. Locally I have seen plenty of fields ploughed and dried out: No doubt machinery spares suppliers and diesel merchants are rubbing their hands together with glee at the prospect of tractors and implements battling with concrete-like soils.

With only a two-man team on the farm, we take care not to get too far in front of each other and avoid these types of unnecessary, expensive, circumstances.

On Sept 8, we host the 24th Power In Action tillage event on the farm. It is held every other year and organised by the Suffolk farm machinery club under the guidance of Brian Bell. The 70 expected tractors will demonstrate the latest tillage tackle on the market. The downside for us is the pounding the soil, already showing signs of compaction from last autumn, will receive. Conditions are still not suitable for sub-soiling. The likely outcome if we try will be smearing and more problems created than solved.

Bill Harbour

Bill Harbour is manager for

Gosmere Farm 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

ON Sept 1 we went back into a field we started combining a month ago. Hopefully by the time you read this the dust will have settled and our remaining 80ha (200 acres) of wheat and 32ha (80 acres) of beans will be cleared. Unfortunately, all the wrong wheats are left – Abbot, Malacca and Hereward – because when things got wet we made clearing fields going into oilseed rape a priority.

Yields have been good considering some of the crops were sown rather late and suffered with slugs and rabbits. We havent had any 5t crops, but plenty over 4t/acre (10t/ha).

Malaccas protein has been a disappointment but I expect that with well over 10t/ha (4t/acre) yield dilution has had an effect. We will grow some more next year as all proteins seem low this season.

Side by side in the same field, Consort outyielded Claire. The Claire looked well all through and the grain sample is good so we will grow it again, but not too much with its poor resistance to mildew and slightly weaker straw than Consort.

Consort. What can I say. It does everything Riband did only better. Everyone I talk to says they will be growing more next year so I expect it will take a substantial area.

Our third season with Madrigal wheat will be our last. Not because it does not yield – it has always been one of the highest – but because it is only a bog standard feed variety. For harvest 2000 I think we will need a bit more than a barn filler. Hence, I have ordered some Chaucer. I watched a neighbours crop closely all season, it yielded very well and will meet intervention standards.

Hybrid spring oilseed rapes Superol and Hyola did very well at 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre) and 2.5t/ha (20cwt/acre) respectively. Hyola was later sown. We shall grow more next year where it is politically correct to have over-wintered stubble for game. A winter crop would be destroyed by the birds anyway.

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

HARVEST is racing on and as of Sept 3 we have just three days combining left, weather permitting.

But, for this article, I feel I must concentrate on the farce that the malting barley market has become.

A series of major company acquisitions without Monopolies and Mergers Commission intervention has left a market controlled by a handful of players. This year they have seen a large increase in area of spring barley planted, and a high quality harvest.

Scottish producers of this crop are geared to the requirements of their customers, which significantly include harvest uplift of unconditioned moist grain. As such, growers tend to have insufficient capacity on farm to store all their cereals and have come to rely on this harvest movement.

That worked well in the past, but now the reduction in market outlets, a lack of storage, and a big quality crop has made it their Achilles heel. It is a maltsters dream and they have not been slow to take advantage of the situation.

No maltster has offered a spot price this year. Traditional spot sellers, due to storage pressures, are desperate to sell grain. But no merchant is willing to fix a price. The solution has seen large tonnages of quality malting barley moving off farm into merchant stores, to be priced at a later date. But once in store, there is little reason to offer more than a token premium over feed. That will drive down the average malting barley price, taking with it the price of crops grown on contract.

The maltsters actions are frustrating but predictable, they are businessmen. Short-term there is little producers can do to change the situation. But long term, we need to react by improving storage, reducing the area dedicated to malting barley and taking control of marketing. If the malting industry will not show its hand next spring why should we? We need to swallow our pride and accept that a bigger heap of feed grain, marketed properly, may give better, and more reliable, returns than the current circus.

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

AS EXPECTED, rain arrived just as we were ready to start harvesting wheat. Instead of the early, dry harvest we had been hoping for we recorded rainfall for 17 days in succession. Total for August was 74mm (2.9in) by my gauge.

We finally managed to snatch some wheat, between the showers, in the second half of the month. We started in Rialto, which yielded about 8.9t/ha (3.6t/acre), followed by Consort doing 9t/ha (3.7t/acre), and finally spring wheat Samoa which came in at about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre).

Overall, winter varieties have yielded about 0.6t/ha (0.25t/acre) up on last year. I put that down to extra sunshine in May and June. The spring wheat did as well as I had hoped; now it is a case of wait and see if it makes the seed requirements.

It was an exceptionally dirty harvest, clouds of dust showing where combines were working. At times it was impossible to see the combine at all and on the inside the driver could see very little. Filters had to be cleaned out at least once a day just to keep going. One plus point of the rain was that we had plenty of time to replace the main rotor bearings on our Dyna Drive cultivator.

We are growing winter oilseed rape again to keep wheats as all first wheats, drilling Apex at 7.7kg/ha (6.9lb/acre). Removing straw gave us better crop establishment and fewer slug problems than where we incorporated straw last year, so our local contractor was called in again. He had baled and cleared all straw within a day of combining, and we followed with two passes of the MB1100 on dual wheels with the 4m Dyna Drive. Nitrogen at 38kg/ha (30 units/acre) was applied to give the crop a good start, before drilling with the second MB1100 on dual wheels and a 4m combination drill.

Linseed will be cut soon, if the weather holds. Now we need 10 days/week to make up for time lost at the beginning of August.


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