24 December 1999


John Best

John Best farms 320ha from

Acton House Farm,

Pointspass, Co Down.

Wheat, conservation-grade

oats and potatoes are the

main crops on his 220ha of

clay loam arable land

ALL wheats were up by the third week of November with the seasonally named hybrid Hyno Santa emerging three days ahead of the other seed plots in trials here.

Spraying is nearly up to date with 6 litres/ha of chlorotoluron on all the wheat except Madrigal, which is intolerant to the chemical, where we used 3.75 litres/ha of Plinth (pendimethalin) plus 2.5 litres/ha of Fieldguard (ipu). Both mixes are aimed at volunteer oats and, more importantly, wild oats, which have built up through our increased use of oats as a break crop.

The oat crops have been sprayed with the 0.16 litres/ha of Fury (cypermethrin) to control the spread of BYDV, but herbicides will be left to spring, as the crop is grown on a conservation grade contract and autumn grassweed control is restricted. Cleavers will have to be tackled then in any case.

A cargo of maize that got wet on the nearby Warrenpoint docks gave us the chance to get an extra weeks work out of the drier recently. That will contribute towards the cost of the new drier, which was replaced this season. Unfortunately, throughput has still not come up to specification, but the manufacturer assures me that this will be sorted out when they visit next month.

The new Northern Ireland assembly means we will have an agriculture minister with direct access to Brussels representing the province. Hopefully, the plight of agriculture here will receive more sympathy as a result. That would be particularly welcome for the pig sector, which is in dire financial straits, through no fault of its own, and, as a cereal producer, is an important market for my cereals.

On a lighter note, a recent supermarket audit on the farm revealed the need for "Fire Exit" signs on the cattle houses. I am sure the cattle will rest easier at night in the knowledge that all they have to do is follow the signs in the event of a fire.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. &#42

Ian Brown

Ian Brown is a third

generation tenant on the

156ha (385-acre) Lee Moor

Farm, Rennington, Alnwick,

Northumberland where he

grows winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape as well as

spring peas

AS you may well be reading this article over the festive period, I shall try to be both upbeat and reflective.

The end of the year is always full of analogies about a fresh start and year 2000 will see my 35th birthday and the 50th year of the farm tenancy. In all sorts of ways it will be a year for taking stock of what has been achieved and thinking carefully about where to go next.

The ministerial announcement about a change in funding is more significant for the mechanisms it puts in place rather than the amount of "new" money available. For years I have suggested to anybody who would listen that money would shift in this direction and that it does not make you any less of a "barley baron" to add strings to your bow to catch some of this redistribution.

On the farm the autumn crops look fine. The oilseed rape, mostly farm-saved Contact, was sown at 5-6kg/ha (4-5lb/acre) and sprayed with Butisan S (metazachlor). Cereals are growing evenly and received Jolt (ipu + pendimethalin) at 3 litres/ha plus Permasect C (cypermethrin) at 0.2 litres/ha before the weather broke. That only leaves the 0.24.24 fertiliser to go on, but that will have to wait until travelling conditions improve.

The precision soil-testing results are back on the five fields tested. No opportunities for direct savings are available, but they will allow more appropriate use of the 40t of P and K fertiliser that we buy each year. I knew the farm was predominantly clay loam but we now officially have a silty clay loam field and precisely 1ha (2.5 acres) of sandy loam. Over the next few years I hope to map the whole farm and set up Lee Moor as a centre of excellence, working with the onsite training centre.

Thank you for reading about Lee Moor during 1999, and I hope you feel part of it in some way. Feel free to e-mail me while the Christmas pudding digests at &#42

Trevor Horsnell

Trevor Horsnell, a former

Sugar Beet Grower of the

Year, part owns and rents

182ha (450 acres) at

Gorrells Farm, Highwood,

Chelmsford, Essex. Besides

beet, his cropping includes

potatoes and winter wheat,

barley and oilseed rape

AT times I feel less than enthusiastic about todays over-commercialised festive season.

In fact, my family call me Ebenezer and I am equally underwhelmed by the over-hyped M-day that is fast approaching. Nonetheless, I have decided to make a few millennium resolutions which I shall take the liberty of sharing with you.

I have decided to work much less hard than in the past by imposing the Working Time Regulations upon myself and only working the same hours as "normal" people. That should give me time for all those other things in life, like eating, sleeping, drinking, etc. To show I mean to start as I will go on, when the new century dawns I shall be somewhere in the Sahara, then, if my computer crashes, I shall be blissfully unaware of it.

In an effort to boost farm income, I will try my hand on televisions Who wants to be a millionaire? When Chris Tarrant asks me those famous words "And what would you do if you won a million £s, Trevor?" I could reply "Just keep farming until it has all gone."

Another resolution is to resist the sales reps tempting offers of shiny new machinery at bargain prices and reduce my tractor fleet to just two. Then each tractor will clock up 1500 hours a year like the experts say they should. But they will wear out much more quickly and probably break down more often. Earlier replacement will keep the sales rep happy and the neighbours will have a laugh when they see me hitching my potato planter to a 200hp tractor on super wide tyres.

I will also become a perfect farmer, like those that one reads about on other pages of this magazine, sometimes. Everything will be done at optimum timings and top-notch yields will be achieved without fail. When asked how harvest is going I will say "Second wheat did about 12t/ha, a bit down on average for us."

Lastly, I must not pose for photographs wearing silly costumes! Merry Christmas. &#42

Jim Bullock

Jim Bullock farms 283ha

(700 acres) in partnership

with his parents and brother

at Mill Farm, Guarlford,

Malvern, Worcs. Two-thirds

is rented or contract farmed,

the rest owned. Cropping is

winter wheat, winter oilseed

rape and winter beans

THIS year the Christmas break looks like lasting over a fortnight and many of our suppliers will be closed well into the New Year.

So I am pleased we have most of the fieldwork completed.

The only spraying job still outstanding is to apply Fortrol (cyanazine) to some of oilseed rape to control charlock in fields that were cultivated before drilling.

It would be all too easy to end the millennium on a downbeat note with nothing but gloom and doom on all fronts: Strengthening sterling, the prospect of higher interest rates, an inevitable drop in cereal prices due to surpluses created by the move away from break-crops under Agenda 2000. To cap it all, a reduction in arable support is now on the books, to fund so-called environmental schemes.

Presently, such schemes mainly benefit those not dependent on farming for most of their incomes, those who can afford to dig ponds, plant trees or whatever. In my view, "Conservation through Profitable Farming", as promoted by Velcourt in the 1980s, is the only way to conserve the countryside. But it must be remembered that over the past few centuries the development of the rural infrastructure has usually been funded by non-farming money.

I believe arable farmings future will be for those who are prepared to embrace change rapidly and can communicate with other members of the industry. That may be their farming neighbours, marketing organisations or even our ultimate customer – the public. The internet might be the first step, as on the net one learns there are farmers all over the world with similar problems to ours and that some have found solutions.

If we are to have free world trade, biotechnology must be adopted and the exciting non-food crops in the pipeline can only improve the outlook for arable farmers.

Lastly, let us hope we can do away with subsidies sooner rather than later and obtain our reward from our customers and not the government.

Happy Christmas and a less anxious New Year. &#42

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