Fieldwork up to date thanks to teamwork

12 February 1999

Fieldwork up to date thanks to teamwork

TEAMWORK, backed by well maintained machinery, is the main reason fieldwork is up to date after a tricky autumn.

Only 16ha (40 acres) following let potato land did not go into winter wheat as planned. The herbicide programme was completed on time, thanks in part to long hours with a quad-bike and trailed sprayer.

"We have four highly motivated men, including our foreman/ mechanic Eddie Thompson," says Mr Hornshaw. "And we are not afraid to employ casual labour at busy times." Pruning and harvesting Christmas trees slots neatly into the arable workload, he notes.

Machinery, mostly John Deere-based, includes a 228hp tractor and two 6m (20ft) cut combines. Spraying is normally carried out with two second-hand 24m boom MB Trac- mounted sprayers, one an Airtec.

The farm has an 18t/hr Carrier continuous flow grain drier and mainly on-floor storage, sufficient to avoid having to sell at harvest. "We updated in the good years and have a fairly efficient set-up, but we have not gone mad. Power use is about 0.5hp/acre, which I believe is about right in the absence of roots." Relatively early drilling, with mainly home-saved seed sown by thousand grain weight, and the recent acquisition of a 4m Vaderstad drill, also helped maintain schedules last autumn, he adds. "We can do 80-100 acres a day on pre-prepared land.

"We start first wheats in mid-September and then do the winter barley. I would like to say we do not start second wheats until October to avoid encouraging take-all, but last year we went on in the third week in September and I am glad we did. At least it is in." Mr Hornshaw does all his own buying and selling through several different sources and outlets, though that policy is under review. Independent agronomy advice comes from York-based AICC member Peter Lambert. "It is very easy to go off at a tangent and I am particularly keen to draw on his expertise and bounce ideas off him. It also gives us the opportunity to buy chemicals from wherever we wish."

Active ingredients, as detailed in ARC booklets, rather than specific products drive spray recommendations, he adds. "I like to think we have got a fairly good handle on things."

Until this season blackgrass was unknown on the farm. "But it has been in the area for several years and I have found it in one field of oilseed rape this year. It has been treated with Fusilade but I am now very wary."

Lime is increasingly needed to keep soil pH to about 6.5. "It may be to do with the wet seasons we have had. But it is something we are having to address."

Looking ahead fixed costs are a key target. "We need to keep the lid on them. And I cannot see that the high tech route of yield mapping and precision farming will be our saviour in a more competitive world market." &#42

See more