Fewer inputs, but good returns on Hants estate

30 April 1999

Fewer inputs, but good returns on Hants estate

What do growers who pursue

ICM policies do differently?

Louise Impey visited two,

one in Hants, one in Cambs,

to find out

SAVINGS in cultivation, weed control and fertiliser, plus improved timeliness and added value on every crop grown.

Those are the claims Hants grower Chris Chapman makes for his integrated crop management (ICM) policy on the 607ha (1500-acre) Hazeley Estate.

"We differ from some neighbouring farms in that we farm less intensively and grow a much higher proportion of spring crops. But we also use fewer inputs, make a good return and continue to develop environmental initiatives.

But pursuing an ICM strategy does add an extra cost in terms of more management, he says.

"Our whole agronomy programme is based on observation. That means walking the crops up to three times a week at this time of year. Spraying is only done when it is absolutely necessary, at the optimum time and rate. For example, its a long time since we used an aphicide on wheat in ear."

Mr Chapman admits he is lucky to have no particular weed, pest or disease problems on the estate. "But part of this is due to a good rotation. As well as spring barley we grow winter wheat and barley, as well as oilseed rape." A 40ha (100-acre) grass-break includes nitrogen fixing legume, sainfoin, and is rotated with the arable area.

Recognising the leaching risk of the chalk soils, ipu was dropped from the herbicide programme. "We used to use Avadex instead, which worked well, but we stopped that last year and now map the main weed patches. The result was only two fields needing treatment, saving us £1500."

Stubble is allowed to green over before spraying off with glyphosate ready for ploughing. For spring crops stubbles are left to over-winter. Ploughing is done uphill and along contours, to minimise erosion.

"We plough just ahead of the drill, which reduces cultivations required and saves us time and money. And we are buying a combination drill so that we can further reduce the number of passes and improve crop establishment. It costs £12/hour for a man and tractor to cross a field, so we will see some savings."

Seed rates are calculated by variety, based on tillering ability, and the drilling conditions. "For example, Optic tillers better than Chariot, so we use a lower seed rate with Optic. But this year we drilled later and in wet conditions, so we used more seed. Also slugs and rabbits have been very active this season."

Baytan seed treatment is used on winter cereals to save on the need for an early fungicide spray.

Fertiliser rates are planned on a nutrient balance system including annual soil tests so exact amounts can be applied. "As a result, weve bought less fertiliser this year. The system would allow us to use a customised mix on every field if we wanted to. Waste is minimal."

A £4000 investment in liquid fertiliser equipment helps increase application accuracy, cutting leaching risk and targeting quality malting and milling markets.

Arable field margins, creating a beetle bank and a once every third year rotated hedge-trimming policy are among conservation measures at Hazeley. Mr Chapman also advocates using the LEAF audit as a management tool to highlight areas where further improvements can be made.

"ICM was the obvious course to follow on a farm like this one," he concludes. "We are never going to get the highest yields on this ground, so we aim to make the best returns possible from growing quality crops."


&#8226 More spring crops.

&#8226 Weed mapping, and no ipu.

&#8226 Soil testing and tailored liquid fert.

&#8226 Extra management time and effort.

See more