Sprayer has earned keep

18 June 1999

Wet gateways? Netlon Ltd approached us some months ago to try out and asses a material called Tensar Farm Track used as a reinforcement to form the base of gateways. The site was levelled in dry conditions with a JCB Loadall bucket and the material laid and covered in stone and compacted. The product would cost £475 for a 40m x 3.8m roll plus the cost of the topping. We have completed two gateways within the Site of Special Scientific Interest and await the winter with interest.

Sprayer has earned keep

SPRAY sheets are being produced by the farm office computer faster than farm foreman, David Cham, can climb into the cab of our Fendt 395 systems tractor.

The 3000-litre combined front and rear tank Knight sprayer has been earning its keep since the change in the weather at the beginning of June. We have had to change gear fairly rapidly from "dry" mode to "changeable" to "positively wet" and with it our budgeted variable costs, mainly in the fungicide section.

No sooner had we made the decision in the third week of May to apply a second dose of the trace elements manganese and magnesium to all cereals, than it started to rain. Between May 29 and June 7 we had 78.10mm (3.07in), the heaviest downfall being on June 2, when we had 22.6mm (0.89in).

Clearly, we had to revise our thinking, not least because the drought that had appeared imminent in mid-May had been reversed. Wheats on thin stony fields which were beginning to burn up and others with tightly-furled flag leaves had been given a new lease of life.

If our fortunes had changed enabling us to forecast a better harvest, then we had to invest to protect our yield. It is no good having the right weather and the wrong fungicide programme. We have added azoxystrobin to the planned tebuconazole to be sprayed as a fine mist at high pressure on the first wheats. Timing is critical to coincide with full ear emergence but before fusarium infection has occurred – quite tricky when we had rain every day in the first seven days of June.

Most of our wheat is either class 1, class 2 milling wheat or for seed production so that, we hope, increasing our spray costs by a further £1,130, or less than £2/t of wheat budgeted to harvest, should come back in improved yield and quality.

Spring barley

Conversely, spring barley has been cheaper to protect and received its second dose of sulphur as the awns began to appear.

The fallow after sugar beet has been sprayed with glyphostate and tallow amine, this being the only set-aside this year going back into cropping this autumn. The rest has been sown down with low maintenance grass species and wild flowers as a 20m band around the west and southern boundaries of the farm.

The peas are responding well to the change in weather and have been sprayed at first flower with manganese and will have a fungicide at podding if the wet, changeable weather continues.

The linseed was programmed to receive a tank mix of tebuconazole and carbendazim at full flower but in the event was not sprayed until some time afterwards having been beaten by the rain. This should be taken in the literal sense since this is the only crop to have suffered from the heavy storm.

It is at this stage that I wished I had applied a growth regulator earlier rather than penny pinching. We may well live to regret that come harvest as well as the slight embarrassment of large areas of cornflower not controlled in our herbicide programme.

The beet has been sprayed with a final herbicide, the few wild oats that I anticipate will be pulled out by hand during harvest on those damp mornings after the combine has been greased up and the moisture is still too high to cut.

June is also the month that we traditionally load out wheat from the grain store.

A total of 625t is scheduled for movement, 25% is Class 1 milling wheat sold at £97.50/t at the end of last year, the rest is soft milling wheat sold 12 months ago at £80/t.

The wheat is weighing well and we may well have a surplus to sell at the end of the month but it is unlikely to sell at those prices.

I see from notes made in my diary that I have been bid £80/t for feed wheat, collection June 2000, by several merchants for the past five months. Perhaps some cover at this price would not be a bad idea.

My greatest regret is not having taken a bid for oilseed rape offered last January for £133/t as available, harvest movement, that would have been worth ££1,755 to the business and would have paid all our extra fungicide costs! &#42

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