19 November 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

IT never pays to be smug – I was feeling pretty pleased with our emerging crops until I noticed a bare block in one field.

Clearly a batch of seed was to blame, but our one-year-old Riband had tested at 86-98% on a home-test, not ideal, but adequate.

However, I had failed to test a 0.5t bag which had had slug pellets mixed in. It looked a bit musty when filling the drill and, sure enough, only about 20% of the seed has grown. So it was back out with the drill to do a patch-up job on the 2ha (5 acres) concerned, an expense and inconvenience that I could have done without. A lesson learnt: Beware slug pellets in over-yeared seed!

Apart from that, all of the crops look well and our slug pellet bill is £1200 less than last year. Cereals received Stomp (pendimethalin) plus ipu at rates as low as 1.5 litres/ha and 1 litre/ha, respectively. Miserly rates maybe, but they seem to work for us. We have no blackgrass and only occasional fields with significant wild oat problems. Only September sown cereals were treated with insecticide and all oilseed rape has had 0.4 litres/ha of Contrast (carbendazim + flusilazole) for light leaf spot control. My wheat seed-rate mistake, 165 seeds/sq m (84kg/ha) rather than 275 seeds/sq m (140kg/ha), has been designated a seed-rate experiment. The lower rate area of Sept 9 sown Claire suffered much more slug damage and pellets were needed, whereas the thicker area easily coped with the slug attack.

I spent as much on pellets as we saved on seed on the low-rate area, and I would rather spend money on seed than slug pellets. Had pellets not been applied the low-rate crop would have failed, so I have decided seed-rates below 250 seeds/sq m are too risky on our soils. At 250 seeds/sq m (130kg/ha) we save £20/ha (£8/acre) on traditional seed-rates and that is saving enough for me.

As this is my last Farmer Focus contribution, I would like to thank everyone for reading. &#42

Borders farm manager Jim Macfarlane bids farewell to Farmer Focus readers, but not before passing on a few establishment tips learnt this autumn.

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

DRILLING finished on Oct 16 and within 48 hours the heavens had opened again.

Work stopped and some of our riverside ground was under water for a day or two.

The worst of the waterlogged areas, about 1ha (2 acres) in total, will need to be redrilled. Slug pellet applications, especially after winter oilseed rape, are reaching epic proportions with nearly 1t applied. Only where seed-beds were extra fine and rolled after drilling was damage less severe. Hopefully, the cold weather that is forecast will slow them down.

Recently, the sprayer has been able to travel and Roundup (glyphosate) was applied to stubbles destined for spring crops at 2.5-3 litres/ha, except for one field with an onion couch problem where 5 litres/ha went on.

Wheats are approaching three-leaf stage and a start has been made with the herbicide programme. Ipu and trifluralin are the central chemicals, with 1.5-2kg/ha of ipu and 2 litres/ha of trifluralin. On 25ha (60 acres) where we have severe blackgrass or wild oat problems full-rate Hawk (clodinafop-propargyl + trifluralin) plus ipu and oil will be used.

Victor spring bean seed sent to NIAB recently gave a surprise result: Only 74% germination. At a thousand grain weight of 597g we will need 403kg/ha to establish 40 plants/sq m. Apparently this is a common problem this year but it is not clear why.

Lambs sold recently averaged £32 a head at 20kg deadweight, most grading at R3L. At these prices our ewes just about hold their own and, hopefully, better times are just around the corner, for all sectors of agriculture. But I have been saying that for two years now.

The French still refuse to allow our beef to cross their border, and, as I see it, so long as we have a ban on beef on the bone, they have good reason to assume there is still a problem, even if infinitesimally small. Hence Nick Browns first priority must be to sort out this issue, and fast. &#42

Autumn work is going well on Andrew Hebditchs Somerset Farm, which is more than can be said for beef exports to France. Nick Brown should get the beef-on-the-bone ban lifted now, he adds.

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


AUTUMN work is up to date and at last we have time to reflect on what has been a very busy year.

In February we decided to change our whole farm system, dispensing with the combine in favour of contractors and opting for high horse-power tractors with a disc and press combination and cultivating drill. March saw the farm sale and almost every bit of kit we possessed leaving the farm. Any spare time during April and May was spent pondering which make and model of machinery to buy under the new policy, and in June and July the new kit arrived. August, September and October have been spent putting the new systems and theories into practice.

So what are the results and what have we learnt?

Managing the harvest with four contractors generally went very well. One has to accept periods when crops are ready to harvest and there is no combine on the farm. But, the next day, you may have up to five machines arrive and munch into your crops.

Having three grainstores proved useful when handling the resulting torrent of grain pouring in. But filling stores at this pace leaves no spare staff to keep up with cultivations. Big tractors should be working whenever there is land available.

Discing and pressing with the Simba 23C Progressive Discs did a satisfactory job in one pass on all our soil types, but, if in any doubt about the need to under bust, my conclusion is do it. A few areas which, with hindsight, needed lifting, but were only disced, soon suffered from Septembers soaking.

Drilling is no longer the organisational nightmare it used to be. Following a low dose of glyphosate, we simply hook on to the Simba Free Flow drill and away we go. The only decisions to make are when to start and what seed-rate to use.

With wheat at under £70/t, arable farming must be kept simple. Our next challenge is to produce even higher yields while reducing costs still further. &#42

Contractors combines were a bit like buses on Justin Blackwoods Grange Farm last summer: None one day, then five the next.

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 plea for fine weather was answered with a dry spell which saw potato lifting finished in record time and all bar 3ha (7 acres) of winter wheat sown.

Then another downpour stopped proceedings.

After lifting a pretty awful sample of Maris Piper, which we are now selling, it is a relief that the Pentland Squire and Desiree look very good. They will be stored into next year.

Spraying of winter cereals should be complete this week. Javelin Gold (ipu + diflufenican) at 1.25 litres/ha plus 1.75 litres/ha of ipu is being applied to winter wheat, with cypermethrin at 0.25 litres/ha due to high levels of aphids. Where the wheat is following oats the ipu is increased to 3.75 litres/ha.

With regard to the oats, Bryce, our agronomist, believes manganese may help with winter hardiness. That will be applied with cypermethrin, which is having to be used now, as we have not had sufficient cold to combat the high levels of aphids.

If ground conditions hold we may get on the fields this week with autumn fertiliser. Recent soil tests carried out by Profarma using their DGPS soil mapping service threw up some interesting variations within fields: Phosphate levels of 1.4-4.0 and potash at 2.0-5.2. We will use the maps provided to guide our P and K applications accordingly.

This week we said goodbye to Mike, our New Zealand helper. Mike came over last year as a sponsored student, which enabled him to spend a year at our local Walford College and then the summer with us. He has been a marvellous help and it is good that there are schemes to enable youngsters to travel, learn and work abroad.

He is looking forward to warmer weather back home. Here, we could do with two or three weeks of reasonable weather so Malcolm can get the roof on our new farmhouse.

Somehow I suspect it will be quite some time before it is ready for occupation. &#42

Potatoes are lifted and spraying is under way on Lloyd Jones Hall Farm, at Westbury, Shropshire.

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