12 November 1999


James Hosking

James Hosking farms 516ha

(1275 acres) with his

parents and brother at

Fentongollan, Tresillian,

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

CEREAL drilling was complete before the end of October, something I do not think we have ever achieved before.

We plough and furrow press, then drill with a power harrow combination, aiming to start the drilling part of the operation at the end of September.

Normally, about two-thirds is ploughed ahead of the drill, and when the drill catches up we keep going by drilling immediately behind the plough. That usually conveniently coincides with worsening weather.

But no worse weather this year. We have even managed to bale the flax in October at between 11 and 14% moisture content. That is a relief, as there are numerous conditions attached to receiving the flax subsidy, the most pertinent being that the flax must be processed. Straw moisture content is the first thing that would get the crop rejected.

Our achievements are down to the warmest, driest October for a long time and it is becoming very noticeable that weather patterns seems to be lurching from one extreme to another, continually setting records.

An International conference on the Challenge of Climatic Change, held recently here in Cornwall, came to some interesting conclusions.

It confirmed that the predictions of 10 or so years ago have proved accurate today. That adds credence to predictions for 25 and 50 years on. Put in simple terms, the main points are that our winters will get warmer and wetter, our summers will get hotter and drier with extremes of temperature and storm increasing.

Such conditions are likely to cause problems in our industry in the short term, but, hopefully, opportunities in the long term. There is not a great deal we can do about it, but we can respond to the threat of drier summers and the consequent shortage of water.

With a critical need for water for our horticultural enterprises this would cause serious problems for us. We have, therefore, decided to immediately double our water storage by creating another winter-fill lake for our irrigation needs. &#42

Blue-skies over Fentongollan have allowed drilling to be completed in record time, but are they the first sign of global warming, asks James Hosking.

Kevin Littleboy

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

THE Orangery at Camphill, near Bedale, provided an excellent forum for this years Great North Meet – The agricultural conference for North Britain.

It was interesting to hear Carl-Albrecht Bartmer, a German arable farmer, describe the dire straits that their arable sector is in and how he plans to survive with the volatility of the world grain market. He did not envisage that getting any better for a considerable time, if ever.

The owner of Camphill, Robert Ropner, has successfully diversified away from agriculture. The estate is now dedicated to providing facilities for corporate clients to entertain, reward, motivate, train and develop people in excellent surroundings. A lesson for us all?

British Sausage Appreciation Week organised by the MLC and the infamous Nags Head Country Hotel, Pickhill, Thirsk, was marked by 50 Yorks butchers competing to be Best Porkshire Sausage Maker. Two local farmers, Tom Bell and Andrew Keeble, won the speciality sausage competition. They joined forces and have diversified to sell their pigs direct to the consumer through Manor Born, Thirsk. Their motto is to produce quality pork foods of unsurpassed taste and freshness accessible to the discerning customer. I wonder if they want to buy some very high grade, farm assured, grain, produced to the highest plant welfare and environmental standards, of course.

On a more mundane level, wheat drilling is finished, bar 2ha (5 acres), and the autumn is proving to be the battle of the slugs. But due to the timely rains, emergence has been the most even I have seen for a long time.

Having finished lifting our own potatoes, I was "delighted" to help my local Reekie distributor with a demonstration of our Reekie Cleanflow harvester for a farm 2 miles down the road. Imagine my surprise when the farm manager, "Distance no object Doug", led us to the trial field 1.5 hours away in a different county! Some might say "gullible Kevin", but not at £117.50/hour – and we stayed to finish the field. &#42

Wheat emergence is as even as Kevin Littleboy has seen for a long time. But slugs are a threat.

Mike Rowland

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

seed production

FURTHER controversy in France concerning our beef is unbelievable.

They ban the import of our meat but include sewage in theirs. Can they not understand the extreme harm they are doing in the eyes of the public? I must say I am less eager to buy French produce and it is music to my ears to overhear people in the supermarkets discussing whether the produce they are buying is British. We must insist on clearer labelling so our shoppers are left in no doubt.

At home, I am pleased to say conventional potato lifting went well, except for a large patch of couch in one field. That area was sprayed with 3 litres/ha of Roundup (glyphosate) last summer, but, to our amazement, it has been totally ineffective. As for marketing, I am told prices are anywhere between £50-£100 for ware quality. I am getting £75/t for our Estima, but Cara has not yet risen to that height.

Conventional and organic Hereward drilling is now complete. The latter has come up very quickly and I just hope we can keep the grass weeds at bay.

Although a little later than planned, our last organic field at Bowden has now been sown to grass seed for in-conversion-set-aside. That means in two years time we should be 100% organic. Hooray!

Our sucklers, very much part of the organic set up, have lost a little condition, but they needed to, as they were overweight. Two heifers not in calf have gone, making only what we paid for them a year ago. Foot problems mean we will probably have to introduce a footbath and we plan to do a blood profile on six of them to ensure there are no serious mineral deficiencies.

On our conventional farm at Amesbury sugar beet harvesting is going well and the first two loads are away to the factory. We only grow 10ha (25 acres) and cannot justify new equipment, so our old three-row harvester and the cleaner loader have been completely refurbished. &#42

Isnt it great to hear people in the supermarket discussing whether produce is British or not… for the right reasons, says Wilts grower, Mike Rowland.

Teddy maufe

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

DRILLING eventually finished on Oct 29, with Maverick wheat after sugar beet which is being grown on a £5 over feed premium contract with Allied Grain.

Most of the winter barley went in during mid-October while we enjoyed a dry spell, three weeks later than planned due to the 140mm (5.5in) of rain that had arrived. Halcyon was drilled on the light land and Regina on the better ground. With the support of the NFU I am trying to restore better communications between the growers and the brewers this autumn and, hopefully, more realistic premiums will result.

Our first field of sugar beet, lifted in September, averaged 47.3t/ha (19.1t/acre) at 16.2% sugar. Since then the crop has bulked up with all the rain, but the sugar percentage has only recently started to rise.

We have just enrolled with LEAF and on wet days I am in the process of completing the necessary audit. I am totally convinced in the worlds need for conventional farming to continue. The alternative of vast tracts of land going totally organic would either lead to chronic food shortages or, in compensation, previously un-farmed natural landscape being pressed into production – not a scenario the Green lobby would be happy about.

But we conventional farmers must continue to farm in sympathy with the environment and increasingly be seen publicly to be doing so. I am convinced that only by farmers uniting in our defence of UK Agriculture plc will we stand a chance of arresting its slide.

In response to the downward spiral in this farms fortunes, we continue our cost-cutting policy. New machinery expenditure has been severely curtailed until better times and, hopefully, next year a rent reduction will be secured. Min-till will also be investigated.

This marks the end of my stint of being a Farmer Focus writer, a task I have thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe this will bring a small saving to my farming colleagues – no more stiff drinks needed to combat my doom-laden articles. &#42

Signing off from Farmer Focus writing, but signing up to LEAF. Norfolk grower Teddy Maufe says conventional farming has to raise its public profile.

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