Mike Rowlands 141ha
(350-acre) Bowden Farm,
Burbage, Wilts, is in organic
conversion with 32ha (80
acres) going fully organic in
Oct 99. Potatoes, carrots,
wheat and peas will rotate
with grass for suckler cows.
At Amesbury 404ha (1000
acres) is in conventional
ON a recent farming tour to Spain and Portugal I found a vast area of land down to intensive cereal production.
It is totally unsuitable and prone to severe erosion. There is no doubt this EU addiction to subsidies has upset the areas correct farming system and highlights little regard for soil type. I am sure crop choice is largely based on the aid available.
Now I am setting up my budgets for next year, I find I could be in the same position. Gone are the years of experience and technical farming skills learnt over the years. It seems more like gambling at a casino and hoping for the best.
I have noted arable aid predictions but am not going to grow wall-to-wall wheat as the budgets might suggest. I shall maintain a well balanced rotation with Apex winter rape, Nitouche and Agadir peas, sugar beet and potatoes.
The cereals will probably be Fanfare winter barley, which still performs best on chalk, and Malacca winter wheat as the best yielding miller. Spark is always good on my thin chalk and Soissons gets my combine out first.
For feed wheat Clare looks fantastic, probably the most promising of our seed production this year. Savannah will stay to maximise yield, but I will allow for heavy fungicide costs for it to reach its full potential.
On the organic front we seem to have grass everywhere and have bought a wider flail mower to keep the paddocks and set-aside under control. We shall hay the front paddock, where there is a wonderful mix of grass and clover.
The organic potatoes look fantastic and reflect the better accuracy of the new planter. Weed control appears good with only a little fat hen that caused trouble with the harvester last year. It will probably be rogued soon.
At the time of writing we have resisted getting the combine out because the tramlines are still very green. *
Teddy Maufe farms 407ha
(1000 acres) as the tenant of Branthill Farm, part of
the Holkham Estate, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. Sugar
beet lies at the heart of the
rotation, with other crops
including winter barley,
wheat and oats, spring
barley and triticale
WE had 30mm of rain at the end of June and beginning of July followed by 10 days so far of straight sun, a real change from last years dry but sunless July.
The Halcyon and Regina winter barley are rapidly ripening as I write this in mid-July.
We have more thistles than usual in all our cereals, brought on, I think, by the damp spring and early summer, and coming through after the herbicide application.
On one of our spring barley headlands, because of a mechanical breakdown, we dispensed with the plough and just used minimum-pass style discs. The result is interesting in that the barley on this headland is miserable and dying off. Admittedly there was some compaction from the sugar beet harvesting, but other comparative headlands which had been ploughed are farming much better.
The sugar beet has enjoyed the previous rains, and now the heat, but will soon need another good soaking to keep it going on this light land. The crop looks good, except for the heavier headlands, which were not really dry enough when we were forcing a seed-bed. Soil structure has suffered and the roots in these places are poorly shaped and struggling.
We have just had a gang in to clear the weed beet by hand. In a few more seasons we will, hopefully, be on top of it because until this year, by pulling regularly each summer, numbers have been declining. But this year we definitely had more than I would expect.
The bird life at Branthill is on an up at the moment, which is pleasing. There has been a noticeable depth of variety to the dawn chorus and there has been a general increase in the sighting of birds such as spotted and green woodpeckers and treecreepers.
On the animal front, the drive round the farmhouse seems the equivalent to a hares ring road and most evenings they lap us! *
Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha
(600 acres) as Howe
Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N
Yorks. The medium sandy
loam in the Vale
that crops from Leeds/Bradford Airport to the Vale of York were far better than I thought they would be.
I expected to find vast areas of reseeding, wet holes and failed crop growth. That just was not the case.
All fields have been photographed again so I can build up a picture over a number of years. One problem this season, very noticeable from the air, is take-all, which I suppose is not surprising due to the wet conditions winter wheat went into.
I have one field of continuous wheat affected, which proves that the disease never goes away and that it is the conditions that dictate its reappearance.
Nothing has moved me from my office to a field so fast as reading a report that a large area of winter wheat in Europe had failed due to lack of vernalisation when drilled late in the spring. But I am happy to relate that my Abbot drilled in March does have grain sites and three or four ears a plant.
Robert Thornton, a local farmers son, who has serviced, maintained, and mended various implements and the combine over the years, is off to new pastures at Kverneland from our local Stewards depot. I wish him all the best, and thank him.
The farming industry continues to learn about diversifying. Now it is obviously the machinery distributors turn, as I discovered at the Great Yorkshire Show.
A financial manager was seen for 42 minutes trying to sell a Claas Challenger to two North Yorkshire police officers. I suppose the tractor has potential for ram-raiding or riot control, but I still think a sales course would be beneficial or at least an explanation that farmers do not wear bullet-proof flak jackets and helmets. *
James Hosking farms 516ha
(1275 acres) with his
parents and brother at
Truro, Cornwall. Land is
equally split between share
farming, various FBTs and a
tenancy. Crops include
wheat, oats, barley and
daffodils, alongside sheep
and cattle enterprises
I AM not superstitious, but as I write this on St Swithins day, I am relieved that it is not raining.
For the past two years the prophecy has proved fairly reliable. The recent dry weather has allowed us to get all the daffodils lifted on to the surface and picked up. When the ground is dry, the soil falls through the lifter webs easily, which allows them to travel faster and makes a better job of separating out the crop.
The bulbs are now being carted in for cleaning, grading and sterilising. A new grading line has just been installed which should allow us to meet delivery deadlines. Every year our customers seem to want their orders earlier, and after a week of teething trouble we now have some catching up to do.
Bulb yield and quality appears quite good. Our main difficulty is that in striving for higher yields, there is a bigger proportion of large bulbs. Pre-packers buy from us by the tonne, but sell by the number of bulbs, so they want bulbs as small as possible.
It is time consumers realise that when they buy bulbs, size does matter. These small bulbs may suit the profit margins of garden centres, but they will not produce such a good show of flowers in spring.
Winter barley is just about ready to combine, and I hope that by the time you read this we will have made a start. We grow it as an entry for forage rape for fattening lambs in the spring. The earlier the rape is drilled, the better the crop, so we are keen to get going.
Winter oats and wheat are also changing colour rapidly, the oats to such an extent that I do not think there will be much of a break for the combine after the barley. I will not comment on the effectiveness of the fungicide regime until I know the yields. *