21 April 2000


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

PROSPECTS of a genetically modified sugar beet crop being grown in our neighbouring parish and, indeed, our harvester lifting the crop has made me begin to take a much closer look at the issue of genetic modification.

I have always been supportive of this new technology, believing the advantages outweigh the perceived disadvantages. It was, therefore, with great interest that I attended the first of a number of public meetings held by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions at which the whole concept of field-scale trials was discussed. A panel of speakers answered questions and concerns from the floor.

I came away reassured that the UK regulations are the strictest in the world. If these crops have not met the rigorous safety tests laid out by DETR they would not be going forward to field evaluation. That said, I still have slight reservations about some species, such as oilseed rape, that will flower and return seed to the soil.

Genetic modification comes in many different guises, some of which have been quite wrongly sensationalised in the Press leaving a lasting impression on the public. To regain public confidence the industry must be able to put forward independent and unbiased evidence and field scale evaluations are the last piece in that jigsaw.

All farmers who are undertaking trials should be warmly congratulated. In theory, we would be willing to host such a trial because we believe it is right to try to further agricultural technology. But in practice, because of the unrest it would produce in our village and the constant threat from environmental terrorists, we have taken the easy option and said no, at present.

Back to more conventional farming and 44mm (1.7in) of rain the day after Englands debacle in Edinburgh raised the spirits again. It was getting very dry after only 15mm (0.6in) in March. &#42

GM crops are top of the agenda at North Rauceby, Lincs, with one of Mark Irelands neighbours hosting a field-scale trial.

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

WITH the arrival of 12 black Labrador puppies, life has been pretty hectic.

April can always be a peculiar month. Crops showed signs of rapid growth, especially oilseed rape as it started to take up available nitrogen from the soil. But now the cold weather is holding everything back and, thankfully, the only rape in flower is the volunteer spring rape.

Where the Autocast winter oilseed rape failed, spring turnip rape has been drilled in its place. Chris Meacock from John Deere kindly came with a 750A drill, direct-drilling straight into the Autocast stubble. The variety is Agena, drilled at 6kg/ha (5lb/acre) and rolled immediately for maximum consolidation. Nitrogen, slug pellets and a 1 litre/ha Butisan (metazachlor) and 1.5 litres/ha Treflan (trifluralin) mix for broadleaved weed control have also gone on, and we will probably apply cypermethrin at 0.25 litres/ha when the crop is at cotyledon stage. The problem with patching in a spring crop next to a winter crop is the reservoir of cabbage stem flea beetle waiting for the new plants; not to mention the pollen beetles later on.

Our sugar beet drilling was completed on Mar 17. This year we are trying Roberta, instead of Madison, and Zulu. The seed-bed was only average, but the small clods were further beaten by cross-rolling after drilling. Now, there are the first signs of life from the young seedlings. No pre-emergence herbicide has been used, as an all post-em approach has produced good results for the past five years.

We have recently carried out some soil profile analysis on our trial fields. I cant give too much away, as there will be an article soon in the main text of this magazine. But I will say that it looks like you should not throw your plough away if you intend to go down the minimum tillage route. Rotational ploughing has to be incorporated into the cultivation system or compaction will catch up with you. &#42

"Would you like to buy a puppy?" asks Stanaway Farms manager, James Moldon. Elsewhere on the farm patching Autocast rape has been a priority.

Ron Duncan

Ron Duncan farms 222ha

(550 acres) in partnership

with his wife and eldest son

at Begrow Farms, Duffus,

Elgin, Moray. Crops include

winter wheat, spring barley,

swedes and beetroot,

alongside a pedigree

Limousin suckler herd

WE drilled 80% of our spring barley in perfect conditions back in March.

Then, on Apr 2 the weather broke with devastating consequences for new lambs and English rugby!

Now that we have been brought back down to earth, the heavy land in the "Laich of Moray" is proving slow to dry, preventing us getting on with the Cambridge rolls.

The cows on the remaining 20% of land we have earmarked for spring barley have nearly finished grazing off the last of the stubble turnips, so we will prepare and drill it as soon as this latest snap of winter departs.

Last autumn we experimented with minimal cultivation on a 10ha (25-acre) block destined for wheat. A "Vogel and Noot Euro Grubber" was used as opposed to our conventional plough and press, costing £12.50/ha (£5/acre) instead of £35/ha (£14/acre) respectively. At the moment both areas look well.

The earliest wheat is now at GS30 so we will include 2.5 litres/ha of Cycocel (chlormequat+choline chloride) growth regulator with the herbicide mix of 15g/ha Ally (metsulfuron-methyl), 0.5 litres/ha MSS Optica (mecaprop-p) and 0.5 litres/ha Oxytril CM (bromoxynil+ioxynil). Total cost is £17.50/ha. £7.10/acre). All 55ha (135 acres) is due a second application of 87kg/ha (70 units/acre) of nitrogen soon.

Optic occupies 41ha (101 acres) of our spring barley and Derkardo the remaining 70ha (173 acres). Both are on contract for malting with Allied Grain to go to the UVD maltings four miles away at Roseisle. Our wheat, all Riband, will either go to Invergordon Distiller or direct to Grampian Country Feeds.

In general, wheat in N East Scotland looks really well, with very few of the big wet areas we have experienced over the past few years. That is good news, as every grain will be needed to make a margin at our projected prices. We recently sold some on a "cash and carry" basis at £70/t so I hope we are not faced with high drying costs. &#42

New Farmer Focus writer Ron Duncan is hoping for better weather to finish spring barley drilling and move on to swedes and beetroot, near Elgin, Moray.

Tim Piper

Tim Piper farms at

Churchlands on the edge

of Romney Marsh, Kent.

Wheat, barley, oilseed rape,

herbage seed and vining

peas occupy 890ha

(2200 acres) of the

1105ha (2730-acre) unit

IN last months article I talked about rapid field work with good drying conditions.

Well that was a month ago, and combining pea seed still sits in the bag. I have to say that is the best place for it, as the peas that have been drilled are not growing and in my experience one thing spring crops do not like is a cold wet spell, checking growth.

All things considered spraying was more or less up to date before the 40mm (1.6in) of rain and sleet on Apr 4. Now, forward wheats have reached GS32 and a second growth regulator has been applied with 0.5 litres/ha of Landmark (kresoxim-methyl + epoxiconazole) plus and extra 0.25 litres/ha of Opus (epoxiconazole). This mixture worked extremely well for us last year, so I see no reason to change.

I resisted the urge to apply any nitrogen to my very forward block of oilseed rape and am glad I did, as it now stands shoulder high. It was drilled at a lowish seed rate, 4.3kg/ha (3.8lb/acre) and each plant resembles a tree. When the tractor and sprayer returned from the field heaving with pollen beetles after the first tank of Caramba (metconazole) and Cycocel (chlormequat + choline chloride) we decided to add cypermethrin to the mix.

We have sown a small area of Lloyd durum wheat at 228kg/ha (1.8 cwt/acre) into an excellent seedbed. Earlier drilling is preferential but the sheep were still folding the turnips on the field at the end of March.

Having read fellow Farmer Focus writer Mark Irelands article, I too have had the dreaded phone call from MAFF. It was the same problem – delivered weights on the IACS 9 return not tying up with the intervention board figures. We were right, and they were wrong, as it turns out.

If we made as many mistakes as MAFF do we would not last five minutes. One can begin to see why the CAP costs so much to administer. &#42

Tim Piper has had MAFF on the phone about IACS 9 returns, just as Mark Ireland did last month, he notes.

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