Brian Hammond is farm
manager for Carnreagh
Farms at the 182ha (450-
acre) Ballyalloly Farm,
Comber, Co Down where he
grows 50ha (125 acres) of
potatoes as well as cereals
and oilseed rape
MARCH brought just 35mm (1.4in) of rain, less than half of normal for the month, and bright sunshine with a drying wind between the showers. That allowed us to complete the potato harvest on St Patricks Day (Mar 17).
We finished up with nearly twice the tonnage expected. Clearly I had underestimated the area left to lift. No matter how we tried it was impossible to get a clean sample off the harvester, and most of the potatoes needed to be graded twice; Firstly to get rid of the clay and then to pick out the rest of the rubbish. All in all we filled 900 1t boxes off the field, but I suspect the potato tonnage is far short of that.
After levelling out the ruts, we ploughed the fields in readiness for planting spring barley. The furrows thrown up were definitely not for the faint-hearted but a combination of sun and rain plus two passes with the power-harrow have produced excellent seed beds. We finished drilling this years varieties, Riviera and Century, at the end of last week at 138kg/ha (1.1cwt/acre).
All this years potato crop will be 20 miles away at Seaforde, on some rented ground. We have been busy spreading 5,000t of muck, which took just seven days with the help of contractor John OHare and his JCB shovel, two Rotaspreaders and our own Samson spreader. A request to the unidentified farmer who donated several extra loads to the muck pile: Please remove the concrete blocks next time.
Winter cereals and oilseed rape have improved dramatically in the past week with the warmer weather. Apex oilseed rape has had 158kg/ha (126 units/acre) of nitrogen in two splits and is just coming into flower now. Cereals had 70kg/ha (56 units/acre) in mid-March.
Chlormequat is due on both winter wheat and barley and will be tank mixed with manganese. Then we will start our fungicide programme which will probably be Amistar (azoxystrobin) based.
Ian Brown is a third
generation tenant on the
156ha (385-acre) Lee Moor
Farm, Rennington, Alnwick,
Northumberland where he
grows winter wheat, barley
and oilseed rape as well as
THE farm is sown up. Spring peas, wheat and barley are all in and I feel they have had a reasonable start. February sown winter wheat looks well too and will probably be managed similarly to the spring wheat, Chablis.
So, as Alan takes a holiday, we are looking ahead to the coming season. There are limitations due to the difficult autumn but all in all it could be a lot worse. Then again, Im a born optimist.
Taking this positive frame of mind to the extreme, I have taken the decision to dive into the combine market. After several years without our own machine we are buying an R-reg Class Lexion. Prices have fallen significantly in recent years and the opportunity to use this machine across the parish with mixed-farming neighbours is justification enough.
I have been extremely lucky with the service from the contractor who we have used, but a change of base for him makes the logistics more difficult and this added weight to my decision to do it ourselves. It is interesting that as one Farmer Focus writer, Justin Blackwood (Arable, Apr 9), sells his machine to go to contractors, under similar economic pressures we are going the other way.
Since the middle of December the farm has been a big building site. The new business units and pond are nearly finished and funding is in place. I am reminded that raising capital is not always easy on a tenanted farm so I am grateful that a deal was struck and look forward to new tenants moving into their custom built premises.
Wet holes in and around some of our arable fields tempt me to investigate the drains, but we may be better to leave it a season before disturbing drainage systems that were fine before 1998.
Finally, I have decided to take up the free advisory visits for organic conversion, and the NFU risk assessment team. Watch this space for their findings!
Jim Bullock farms 283ha
(700 acres) in partnership
with his parents and brother
at Mill Farm, Guarlford,
Malvern, Worcs. Two-thirds
is rented or contract farmed,
the rest owned. Cropping is
winter wheat, winter oilseed
rape and winter beans
JUST when we think we have got up to date with all our spraying and top dressing, our agronomist tells us that he has found pollen beetle on the oilseed rape and pea and bean weevil in the beans; Pests I hadnt even thought about yet!
Travelling to put on sprays and fertilisers has not been easy so far this spring. Despite the soil surface appearing dry, underneath it is still absolutely saturated. In places we have tramlines that will need a JCB to level them after harvest. Another accolade for the No-Till system: those fields have travelled well with hardly a mark in the tramlines.
Wheats have all had Adjust (chlormequat) growth regulator and any untreated grass weeds have been sprayed with Cheetah (fenoxaprop-P-ethyl). We will leave the broad-leaved weeds until we apply a fungicide at GS32. Oilseed rape has had a dose of tebuconazole fungicide, which should have a beneficial shortening effect, and Laser (cycloxydim) where grass weeds were missed in the autumn. Winter linseed has been sprayed with Eagle (amidosulfuron) to control charlock and cleavers.
Our spring workload has just increased with another 68ha (170 acres) recently added to our area. Although most of it was sown with winter wheat and beans when we took it on, there are still about 10-12ha (25-30 acres) that need drilling. That will probably go in to linseed. It is a sad thought that this land was a farm in its own right, providing a family with a livelihood for generations. Now it is just a marginal addition to our business which will hopefully keep us going for a few more years. A sorry sign of the times.
The ACCS debate seems to rumble on and the "antis" are becoming more forthright in their condemnation. My own feeling is that we should make the present system work. The last thing we want is a scheme set up by government, who would probably include members of inappropriate organisations as verifiers.
Trevor Horsnell, a former
Sugar Beet Grower of the
Year, part owns and rents
182ha (450 acres) at
Gorrells Farm, Highwood,
Chelmsford, Essex. Besides
beet, his cropping includes
potatoes and winter wheat,
barley and oilseed rape
AUTUMN 98s legacy will be with us for many months yet to come I fear. We are finding soil conditions the worst for several years and much patience is required to avoid forcing things which we would come to regret later. That is not too easy remembering last Aprils washout.
If I could order my weather for the next few days I would request nice gentle rains on the newly sown sugar beet and the cereals. Where we lifted potatoes in March, and are now trying to force the pug into submission, a couple of stinging frosts would do the trick. For this seasons potato land Sahara-like drying winds are required. However, following my recent lack of communication with "him upstairs", snow is more likely!
Old faithful sugar beet variety Saxon has been superseded by Chorus, and drilling finished on Apr 6. Seed-bed conditions were variable and in places the drill left seed uncovered in the slots it had cut. A pass with the rolls has hopefully sorted that out, but I am prepared for a variable plant population. A low dose of Spectron (chloridazon + ethofumesate) has been applied, as I am a little nervous of relying solely on post-emergence treatments.
I was a little dismayed to find a hole in the middle of the field while drilling where a land drain has collapsed. This is not the only drainage problem we have to rectify and we have already booked 35ha (86 acres) of mole-draining after harvest. Hopefully, that will cure most problems. The farm is not generating enough profit to replace ageing tile-drains.
However, we seem to be generating ever-larger quantities of paperwork and record-keeping, a situation not helped when I discovered half the farm is in a nitrate vulnerable zone.
Potato planting has started with 5ha (12 acres) of chitted Estima in on some easier land. I fear planting the heavy land is going to be a patience-testing, drawn out affair.