Harvest? Ugh…but a cracking start for 98

10 October 1997

Harvest? Ugh…but a cracking start for 98

This autumn has been

kind to our south-west

barometer grower

Andrew Blake reports

A FTER a harvest best forgotten, according to Richard Payne, September has provided ideal conditions to get next seasons crops off to a good start.

But with cereal prices as low as £80/t he is wary of straying too far from his cropping and input regimes at Heathfield Manor Farm, near Taunton, Somerset.

Main cost-cutting focus is on cultivations. Ploughing remains an essential anti-wild oat operation, except after peas and perhaps beans, he maintains. But a new set of Simba discs has been bought for stubble busting and cleaning where soil structure permits.

"I was not happy using the Shakaerator all the time and employing our crumbler cultivator would have been expensive on points," he explains.

In practice a herbicide clean-up was often the most economic option this autumn. "We sprayed quite a lot of stubbles with 1.5 litres/ha of Roundup Biactive, upping the rate a bit where we had docks, which are becoming an increasing problem."

With three-quarters of this autumns 80ha (200 acres) of wheat sown by Oct 1 drilling is well on schedule. That is despite its starting a week later than usual, mainly because of trials results from the Arable Research Centres, which the farm has recently joined. "They clearly show early drilling does not always pay," says Mr Payne.

The Simba Freeflow drill, new halfway through last autumn, is proving successful in sowing uniformly, in some cases straight on to ploughed and pressed land.

"The saving on diesel is astronomic. Last year we used 230 litres to drill our oilseed rape. This year it took just 90 by saving passes."

One winter project will be to design and build a press/roller combination to follow the new discs and save separate rolling operations.

Basic soil preparation at Heathfield Manor Farm is in the hands of Mike Baker. Generally, little further work has been needed ahead of the drill.

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