GOOD autumn crop establishment is the sole bright spot for Caley Sackur as he contemplates the coming season at Lodge Farm, Tibthorpe, N Yorks.
"We have had a good start. But I should say we have got a very difficult year ahead."
That is on top of a largely disappointing 1997 thanks mainly to bad weather at harvest which wrecked wheat yield and quality. "The high for us was some good Halcyon malting barley which we got away early on a good contract. The oilseed rape was also OK.
"But our wheat yield was down 25% on the previous year." Some initial cuts went for milling, but most took hefty price deductions. "The worst was on the Hereward, which all went for feed."
With falling prices because of the strong £, the farm suffered a double knock, and the future looks little better, he says. "It makes the farming outlook very depressive."
Main practical lesson learned last season concerns sowing dates. "Do not drill Rialto too early," he advises. Sown about Sept 20 on ground readily available after vining peas the crop went flat.
"Do not go overboard with the nitrogen" is another lesson easily taught with the benefit of that experience. In theory the amount used was about right had it not been for the poor harvest weather. "With hindsight we might not have used so much."
Some success with Amistar (azoxystrobin) fungicide makes him keen to try it again.
Sowing dates must be spot on to maximise crop output, says Caley Sackur. That applies to spring and winter sown crops alike. Nitrogen rates also need fine-tuning.