3 December 1999


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, oilseed rape,

swedes and grass

LAST year, at this time, we could not keep on top of seed potato grading. Tonnage was added to the grading list faster than we could complete orders.

This year it is the reverse. Depressed ware prices have put the brakes on seed orders and the phone is abnormally quiet – I sometimes pick it up to see if it is still working. In other years I have had three merchants a day enquiring about seed. Its not that I have turned down orders because the price offered is poor; there are simply very few sales opportunities at present. That said, seed growers have to be careful not to throw the season away too early by accepting ever lower prices simply to secure tonnage to grade.

The scenario outlined has serious implications for the Spring. In such a late trading season grading is compressed into February and March, with growers expecting delivery a week after ordering. We have been there before, its murder, and nobody wins.

Following the retirement of two men this summer, we have two extra casuals employed on the grader. The retirements presented an ideal opportunity to review staff numbers and we decided to only recruit one new member – Bill Smart, our Grieve, who started in August. To cover shortfalls at peak times we intend to use Ringlink, our local machinery ring and an excellent source of skilled labour.

One of the main aims of the reorganisation was to release skilled staff from the potato store to allow winter ploughing to be carried out uninterrupted. That should solve the problem of recent years when late ploughing has compromised spring barley germination, and, I expect, yield. This year, one man with a John Deere 6910 and a 5-furrow reversible plough had virtually completed winter ploughing by the end of November. Hopefully, that is one more point on the long list of wrongs that has now been righted. &#42

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

FROM a season that produced many difficult conditions, all that is left to do is some spraying on late emerging wheats.

The last of the sugar beet was lifted on Nov 4 in almost ideal conditions. Yield is down and the beet clearly did not bulk up as well as last year, but, with all the beet still in store, it is difficult to predict the final tonnage. The variety we were lifting was Madison, which will be replaced by Roberta next year.

Our beet is stored in an old dutch barn and is part of a BS demonstration of how to store beet for at least eight weeks with minimal wastage, while making use of a mainly redundant building. The roof provides some protection from the elements, with the clamp sides built with Heston bales stacked two high. Pallets beneath the bales allow ventilation into and through the clamp. The beet has been levelled on top to avoid frost pockets and will be covered with straw if temperatures drop well below zero.

The oilseed rape establishment trials continue to show interesting differences. Combine wheelings are showing up in the direct drilling trials and have caused some stunted growth and water logging in the wet conditions. But there are still plenty of healthy plants visible. The Autocast crop continues to improve as the weeks go by, and plant numbers now vary between 5 and 35 plants/sq m. Though this would still be classed as a thin crop, knowing the recovery powers of rape I am optimistic that the results will be pleasing.

Last month, 55 members of the Mid Anglian Trials Group braved the cold of a typical November morning to come and see the wheat and rape establishment trials. There is no easy answer to establishing a crop with so many variables depending on site and season, but the trials do provide members with an insight into the pros and cons of using non-inversion techniques. &#42

Tim Piper

Tim Piper farms at

Churchlands on the edge

of Romney Marsh, Kent.

Wheat, barley, oilseed rape,

herbage seed and vining

peas are the main crops on

the 890ha (2200 acre) unit

IN early December last year, I was contemplating the options for spring drilling, having had a disastrous, rain-soaked, drilling campaign. We were unable to plough up dry soil, and our two combination drills let us down badly. It was the catalyst to take the plunge and change the system.

Out went an extremely heavy, power sapping Amazone unit and in came a 6m Vaderstad Rapide. Our tractor compliment of a seven-year-old JD4955, a six-year-old JCB Fastrac 185 and a three-year-old JD6400 amounted to only 0.67hp/ha (0.27hp/acre), hardly extravagant across 890ha (2200 acres) of combinable crops.

In fact, you could say we were seriously under-powered, so when our JD dealer, Bell Agricultural, came up with a competitive enough quote on a 280hp tracked John Deere 8400T, we added it to the fleet.

This autumn we started by discing and pressing the majority of our land with a Simba double press and sub-soiling with our faithful Taylor Gent Flatlift. Drilling began on Sept 1 with Sibutol Secur (bitertanol + fuberidazole + imidacloprid) dressed Consort at 60kg/ha (0.5cwt/acre) aiming for 100 seeds/sq m.

And with 40ha (100 acres) done in a little over a day, it looked like it was going to be a doddle. Then the rain came – 157mm (6.2in) in 18 days.

Visions of spring barley, linseed and spring wheat flashed before my eyes, but on Oct 4 we got going again and the 8400T and Vaderstad came into their own, finishing on Oct 18. Main wheat varieties are Claire, Consort and Marshall, with Gleam and Intro barley.

Spraying is more or less up-to-date and I am particularly pleased with the job 0.75 litres/ha of Butisan (metazachlor) and 2.3 litres/ha of Treflan (triluralin) have done on the oilseed rape. On cereals weve used 3 litres/ha of ipu plus 40g/ha of diflufenican, with some judicial amounts of Avadex (triallate) which should, hopefully, cope with the resistant Italian ryegrass we have on one farm. Land for vining peas next spring has all been ploughed. &#42

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with his

father and brother at Grange

Farm, North Rauceby, Lincs.

Sugar beet and barley are

the core crops on the

1004ha (2481 acres)

heathland unit.

IT is always embarrassing to make a fool of yourself on the farm but far worse when it is in front of your farming neighbour.

Autumn spraying had been progressing well. All the cereals were covered with either a Panther (diflufenican + ipu) plus ipu or Stomp (pendamethalin) plus ipu mix, rates depending on the weeds present and those historically expected. Cypermetherin was added for aphid control.

Then an enforced rain-break resulted in a half-filled sprayer standing on the yard for two days. On resumption of spraying a dozen or so nozzle-bodies blocked completely. They are not the easiest of things to change, but as it was an ideal spraying day we tried to put the problem right in the field.

Our neighbour happened to be walking his fields and noticed our plight, no doubt alerted to our problem by the large amount of shouting and bad language that went on in disbelief at what had happened. Sure enough, over he came, and I had to explain what had gone wrong.

That mishap has highlighted a problem with the plumbing on our spraylines, so we shall put it right this winter with a system to flush them with clean water.

Apart from C1 seed for growing on, we home-save and dress all our own seed through a very old ICI Plantector machine. That cuts our seed costs substantially and ensures we have seed on farm when we want it, but we come slightly unstuck with Evict (tefluthrin), which we apply to our spring barley seed. We can only apply one chemical per pass with our applicator, and Evict is an unfriendly chemical to handle. So, in the third week of November, we had a mobile seed dresser in which very quickly dosed our Optic with Raxil S (tebuconazole+triazoxide) and Evict. Within hours the first batch was in the drill and a start made on the 206ha (509 acres) we have to sow. How a chemical with such good environmental credentials can be so nasty to operators I dont know. &#42

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