Mike Cumming

22 May 1998




Mike Cumming

Mike Cumming is manager

at Lour Farms, Ladenford,

Forfar, Angus, where spring

malting barley and seed

potatoes occupy about half

the 749ha (1850 acres). Other

crops include winter wheat,

barley and oats, oilseed

rape, swedes and grass

MY concerns last month about the effects the rain and frost would have on our oilseed rape proved unfounded. I underestimated the power of rape to overcome adversity. The crop is now in full flower and making an amazing recovery.

I had intended to pare costs by omitting a mid-flowering spray. But due to the amount of damaged tissue I decided to apply Compass (iprodione + thiophanate-methyl) at 2 litres/ha.

The spring barley picture is not so rosy. In fact it looks awful, the worst I have seen for seven years. The fields sown in early March, which emerged during mid-Aprils 120mm (5in) of rain, look acceptable.

But fields where the grain had sprouted and not appeared suffered far more. I think it was the sharp frosts acting on waterlogged soils that did the damage. Fields with hollows are certainly the worst affected. Uneven germination, drowned patches and yellowing is the order of the day in my corner of Angus.

The extreme weather has also highlighted the effect of compaction while drilling. Fields drilled with a 3m (9.8ft) combination unit look far better than those where establishment followed a conventional two pass power harrow/pneumatic drill routine. Every wheel mark is evident in the latter.

I spent many hours evaluating different establishment systems over the past year, but delayed any decisions for several reasons. But I now think I will have to make changes before next spring. Current grain prices focus the mind to the fact that each acre must work as hard as possible. Our present system is fast, but compromises germination and this can no longer be tolerated.

Potato planting finally got under way on Apr 29 and with a good steady spell of weather and ground conditions better than expected was set to be completed by May 18. The 60ha (150 acres) is made up of 13 different varieties comprising 24 separate crops. About half the area is grown on contract. &#42

Ground conditions for spud planting have been better than expected, says Mike Cumming. But elsewhere compaction has been a problem.


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