On schedule despite all…

19 October 2001

On schedule despite all…

For the last report in our

series monitoring autumn

activity on FARMERS

WEEKLYs barometer farms

Andrew Blake visits Norfolk

THE contrast between Stuart Knights first two autumns at Rhoon Farm, Terrington St Clement could hardly be greater.

The farm had slightly more rain last month than in September 2000. But Mr Knight and his three-man team are well on schedule – despite having an extra 243ha (600 acres) to farm and beginning drilling three days later.

"We have definitely had a better start. This season we shall have about 1600 acres of winter wheat, and all except the 230 acres after beet and potatoes was in by Oct 11."

Last season saw only two-thirds of the planned wheat sown and

6.5ha (16 acres) of potatoes eventually abandoned to flooding.

"We acquired Pear Tree Farm at Long Sutton in Lincs, about 12 miles away, at the beginning of September."

Clearly a long-term investment, reflecting the faith of owners Richard and Julian Kerkham in farmings future, it should help spread fixed costs. "But its medium silt soils also offer the chance to increase our root area," explains Mr Knight.

"I am confident we can handle it with our existing machinery and staff, though after last years experience we have just bought another potato harvester as insurance."

Rainfall distribution in September explains this autumns better progress. "We had 91mm this year.

Last year we had only 88mm, but nothing until the 15th when we got 35mm in one hit." That soaking was followed by more rain and a saturated early October.

"This year it was more spread out, with 6mm one day and 3mm the next. There was only one day when we had to stop drilling. But weve been lucky. Other farms, especially to the east and north, have been much wetter."

Stuart Knight (right) reckons the £9000 for this six-year-old potato harvester, which doubles the farms lifting capacity, is money well spent if it helps harvest pre-packs in better condition and speeds wheat sowing (left).

Wheat estab costs (£/ha)

Method 1 Method 2

Flat-lifting 32 Plough & press 44

Disc, press & roll 28 Freeflow drill 32

Freeflow drill 32 R/up spray x 2 14

R/up spray x 2 14 Draza pellets 27

Slug pellets 27

Total 133 117


&#8226 Extra land 12 miles away.

&#8226 Fieldwork well up to date.

&#8226 First time stab at seed growing.

&#8226 Potato lifting capacity doubled.

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