10 December 1999


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

WEATHER! It is a good thing we cannot interfere with it. Despite all the rain this autumn later drilled crops look well except for a little slug damage on the wetter, poorer seed-beds and rabbit damage on headlands.

Grain prices are still low, and, in my opinion, are likely to remain so. We have had a good harvest, as they have on the continent, and stock farmers can only afford to buy a frugal amount. Thankfully, we have only got our Malacca left. It yielded well but, like nearly everyone elses milling wheat locally, it lost its Hagberg.

Sadly only three loads of our Fanfare winter barley went for seed production and, because it has been dropped from maltsters preferred lists, people wont buy it for malting. We have planted the new malting variety Pearl for this year which looks exceptionally well.

Potatoes are moving slowly at the moment but hopefully trade will improve towards Christmas.

On our conventional farm sugar beet harvesting is complete. Sugars are good, at over 18% and yields a record at over 62t/ha (25t/acre). We hope to get Soissons wheat drilled promptly in this field, which will complete our drilling programme. Soissons has performed consistently well for us over the years when drilled late, so we are sticking with it. We simply cannot risk any fields failing to perform.

We are thinking hard about what we will be doing next year when 120ha (300 acres) will be fully converted to organic. It is very exciting and the continued expansion of this sector is impressive. Waitrose, for one, now has shelves and shelves of organic produce and it is no longer squeezed into an insignificant corner.

Organic or conventional, I believe we must all fight our corner with the politicians. Farming is in the worst depression since the 1930s and we must do what we do well even better, and cut out the rest.

Best wishes for the millennium. &#42

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

THIS autumn has been unusual. Normally, we wait anxiously for weather windows to complete fieldwork but this year it was remarkably easy. A tank-mix of 1 litre/ha ipu, 1 litre/ha Panther (ipu + diflufenican) and 0.25 litres/ha cypermethrin was applied to winter wheat and barley at the beginning of November, on our target date for aphid control. BYDV is a serious threat in this area and we had winter barley seed dressed with Raxil Secur (imidacloprid + tebuconazole + triazoxide) as an insurance policy. It is the first crop drilled and if we could not travel to spray it would be at a severe risk from the virus.

Compound fertiliser is on the cereals and residual herbicide has been applied to the daffodils. Some early varieties are emerging in their rows, and we have even got the odd flower on a couple of very early varieties.

The EU commission has proposed flax be brought within the AAP scheme, at the same rate as oilseeds, and that the changes should be introduced with immediate effect. What a simple way to kill off the re-emerging UK flax industry. After a few years of growing flax, our fibre is now processed at a new factory here in Cornwall, and beginning to show signs of developing into a viable enterprise. If these proposals are implemented it gives us little time to think of an alternative crop on our ineligible land and it is a disaster for those who have spent a lot of time and money developing the processing facilities.

Things seem to be warming up in Seattle for the WTO talks and the anticipated pressure for free trade with no forms of protectionism. I understand the theories of free trade, but it could only work for agriculture if the playing field was level, and everyone played under the same set of rules. That is never going to happen and in global terms agricultural trade is relatively small. Let us hope common sense prevails. &#42

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

WITH 350 agricultural jobs lost a week last year, its not surprising that there are now more employees working in UK Indian restaurants and take-aways than in British agriculture.

The sad state of the industry was reflected in a recent meeting between an estate – sorry, I mean land agent and tenant farmer. The tenant farmer was slightly taken aback when told there had to a rent increase and dumbfounded when told that the "profit" from his farm was to pay for the upkeep of the house and farm buildings. He should also send his wife out to work to put food on the table. I wont repeat what the young mother thought of that wise and sensitively put suggestion.

Returning from the largest European agricultural exhibition, Agritechnica in Hanover, I truly question the number and frequency of national shows we have in this country.

Each of the 13 halls was as big as Smithfield, over 45% of visitors are foreigners and every stand had someone who spoke English. All enquiries I made that needed a follow-up answer were answered by their UK distributor/manufacturer within 13 days of getting back. That is a lesson exhibitors here need to take on board if they want to remain in business.

Winter barley has been sprayed with a low dose of strobilurin, as I believe that contributed to the very high barley yields we achieved last year. Winter wheat trial plots look well, thankfully, and, so far, the new variety C001KL appears to have stronger growth and disease resistance.

I am delighted the beef on the bone ban is to be lifted. Not that it stopped me buying ribs of beef from my local butcher for the past two years. He sells real meat. Talking of ridiculous legislation, our namby-pamby government is to rule that new beds have sides on by 2001 as 19 people a year die falling out of bed. I look forward to the consultation paper on that one! &#42

Andrew Keeler

Andrew Keeler farms with

his parents at Church Farm,

Aylsham, Norfolk. Sugar

beet, potatoes, winter

wheat and premium malting

barley are grown on the

32ha (80 acre) farm

DRILLING is all but complete, with just 0.8ha (2 acres) left to do following sugar beet.

Wheat this year is Claire and we hope to capitalise on its good disease resistance by saving on sprays later in the growing season. A low thousand grain weight has allowed us to cut seed rates, too. Aiming for 280 plants/sq m we drilled 173kg/ha (1.4cwt/acre) of seed following potatoes, starting on Oct 29. The ground was a bit wet on top but ploughed up a lot better than expected. One pass with the drill/power harrow combination soon knocked it into shape.

That set up gives us a good even emergence of the crop with the least amount of compaction, together with being able to deal with any rough spots in one pass. Seed rates following sugar beet have been gradually increased with the last going in at 205kg/ha (1.6cwt/acre) on Nov 16. We have plenty of seed left so this rate can still be increased for the remainder. The drill calibration has come out spot on and, for once, we are saved having to source extra seed to finish.

Rain, strong winds and frost have kept us from spraying. Our most forward barley has been waiting for a herbicide, aphicide and manganese spray for weeks, but, as I write, the chemicals remain in the store. All barley has received 250kg/ha (2cwt/acre) of 0-16-36 and mostly it looks well. The variety is Maris Otter, grown on contract for harvest movement at a £40/t premium. That is less than last year, but still preferable to feed or a "commodity" malting variety on our sandy loam soil.

Last harvests wheat will go next month at £70/t.

Sugar percentage in the beet has risen from 16.1% to 17.7% in our most recent delivery, and dirt tares are down from the start of the campaign. With about 200t left it looks like we will be about a third over our A and B quota. &#42

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