John Jeffrey

10 March 2000

John Jeffrey

OUR local competition to create the deepest tramlines has started again.

Scottish Quality Cereals regulations prohibit top-dressing nitrogen before the Ides of February, so the "Whacky Races" start on Feb 16, regardless of weather or ground conditions. This years competition is running to form with the previous winners again well out in front.

Unfortunately, I was left standing at the starting post due to lack of fertiliser. The urea we ordered in July for delivery Nov-Jan arrived on March 1. Payment terms were April 28 so the cheque will now be presented on June 28 – two months late like the delivery. We are now playing catch up, starting with the most backward crops, applying 125kg/ha (100 units/acre) to all winter crops. That is the maximum SQC allow in March.

Two weeks ago our agronomy group, Kelso Grain Consultants, held an open day to look at establishment practices for wheat and oilseed rape. The field-scale trials range from conventional plough, press and combination establishment through to direct drilling. Neither costs nor plant counts were as varied as I expected and the increase in fixed costs to convert to a no-till operation would make it prohibitive, I believe.

The main management issue this spring was which break crop to choose. After exploring all the options I opted for beans as there seems little we can do to influence the end price of any produce. Hence our efforts must be concentrated on reducing input costs and on paper at least, spring beans seem the cheapest crop to grow.

However, on calibrating the drill we discovered, to our horror, that it will not sow beans. Faced with the prospect of a contractors bill, I am now showing an interest in new drills in the hope that somebody will sow them under the premise of a sale. Robbie Burns quote "The best laid schemes o mice an men/Gang aft a-gley" springs to mind. The same could be said for the Scottish rugby team.

"Dyou have a drill that can sow beans?" John Jeffreys spring break crop plans at Kersknowe met with a wee technical hitch recently.

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