Jim MacFarlane

13 March 1998

Jim MacFarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two-thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

RECORDS are being broken here already this year, with spring barley sowing beginning on Feb 26, our earliest ever start

A relatively light riverside field is being sown with 380 viable seeds a sq m of home saved Chariot.

Field work had actually restarted on Feb 18 with the application of 325kg/ha (1cwt/acre) of Hydro Sulphan fertiliser to the oilseed rape. The crop looks good and is well ahead of normal. It will soon receive its second dose of fungicide as Punch C (flusilazole + mbc).

The cereals are also generally much more advanced than normal and very lush. These fields will receive no nitrogen for some time. but in fields with slug damage I am inclined to apply some nitrogen now to encourage tillering. The problem is the damage is patchy. It looks like the lush bits in between will just have to become even lusher.

All our cereal fields receive their first nitrogen as a blend with phosphate, potash and sulphur. This is due to a lack of time in the autumn for spreading. I also think it is quite a cheap way of buying nitrogen.

Unusually, we have low potash levels. So the first dressing is a 13.5:26:16 blend with 5% sulphur to keep the potash status in the medium range. Any really low fields receive some MAP in the autumn.

I am sure GPS soil mapping will be the way forward for us but I am not ready to bite the bullet yet. I think some advances in sampling and application are still needed. I would bet two samples taken within metres of each other would often give quite different results.

The value of the system depends on accurate sampling, analysis and application and I do not think we are quite there yet. Maybe sometime in the distant future we will be able to do instant analyses as the spreader travels over the land and adjusts inputs accordingly. Now that would be progress. &#42

Pigeons beware! Traditional technology suffices for todays pest scaring and fertilser spreading. But real-time precision farming could help target inputs in future, hopes Jim MacFarlane.

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