Thursday, 30 May 2013

Meet Farmer Phil on Open Farm Sunday

 Farmer Phil looks forward to meeting visitors to Open Farm Sunday on June 9th 2013
GWCT Allerton Project


Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Parkland tree comes crashing down !

It is always a sad day when a tree which is over a 100 years old is bought to the ground by inclement weather. This horse chestnut fell victim to last Friday's wind and rain, this is the second major limb to fall from this tree in the last 5 years.

The decision now is to see if the rest is worth saving or we let other recently planted parkland trees flourish in the vacated space. The beech, oak and ash trees planted 10 years ago are now a a parkland feature in their own right. The 50 apple trees planted last year will also help ease the pain !

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bees, Nionicotinoids and OSR

With many commentators linking nionicotinoid seed dressings with the decline in bee populations; Phil Jarvis, Head of Farming at the Allerton Project asks the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Director of Policy, Dr Alastair Leake, about the issues surrounding the subject.

Are foraging bees vulnerable to nionicotinoid seed dressings ?
Phil Jarvis; What are the pests that oil seed rape plants are vulnerable to?
Dr Alastair Leake; Spring and autumn sown rape crops are attacked by a range of pests. These include the peach potato aphid, which spreads beet yellows and turnip yellows virus, pollen beetles, cabbage seed weevil, brassica pod midge, cabbage stem flea beetle, mealy cabbage aphid, cabbage stem weevil and rape winter stem weevil. 

Phil ; Are there practices farmers can employ that don’t involve seed dressings or spraying?
Alastair ; There are a number of cultural techniques farmers can employ to help control pests, but many are not practical or have other consequences. Delaying drilling after ploughing by 5 weeks reduces the “green bridge” effect, but results in backward crops; converting to a min-till establishment system increases the number of beneficial predators but exacerbates the ”green bridge”.

Phil ; So why do growers prefer to use nionicotinoid seed dressings ?
Alastair; The most effective means of protecting the emerging seed is to use a nionicotinoid seed dressing. This removes the need for an insecticide spray for 6 weeks post drilling. In a crop of autumn rape, this would provide protection for August and September when many other non-target insects would still be active in the field. After 6 weeks the crop should be monitored regularly and where thresholds are exceeded a spray applied. Trials have indicated this approach can add an extra 0.3 t/ha to yield worth approximately £150/ha to the farmer.

Phil; Farmers are concerned that any ban on these seed dressings will affect yield and reduce food production. What are the alternatives to using nionicotinoid seed dressings?
Alastair; Rather than treat the seed, many growers will be forced to spray emerging crops. The return to the widespread spraying of these non-selective insecticides would be considered by many to be a retrograde step. 
There are two other groups of insecticides available and approved for use on OSR. These are the synthetic pyrethriods (e.g. cypermetherin, deltametherin) and the carbamates (e.g. pirimicarb). The former group are highly toxic to bees, the later moderately toxic. A high proportion of the of the peach potato aphid population is resistant to pyrethroids and the vast majority resistant to pirimicarb, so there is little left in the armoury for dealing with virus vectors. The problem of resistance is becoming greater and greater as active ingredients are withdrawn leading to the more widespread and greater frequency of use of the remaining few.

Phil; How should growers deal with pollen beetles later in the season when oilseed rape is flowering?
Alastair; Dealing with pollen beetles is particularly tricky as they infest the crop just pre-flowering, at the green/yellow bud stage. HGCA run a migration forecast scheme and there is a well defined system for determining threshold levels, above which sprays should only be applied. Some work has been done growing turnip rape around the headlands which flowers a little earlier than OSR and acts as a trap crop. Where a threshold is exceeded pyrethroids can be sprayed, or Thiacloprid, which is a neonicotinoid and has escaped the proposed ban. Spraying for pollen beetle should be limited to the green/yellow bud period when economic damage can be done, but ceased by flowering time, as the pollen beetles may be helpful with pollination at this point. There is a code of practice which sets out how spray operators can minimise the effect their activities may have on bees.

Phil; When will this ban on nionicotinoids take place?
Alastair; The ban on the three nionicotinoid actives affected by the EU decision is likely to come into force by the end of the year, which means that this autumn’s crops can still be treated with a seed dressing.



Monday, 20 May 2013

Storing up problems !

Well the spring crops are growing, but very slowly. After the wet, came the dry and now we have the cold. Here are some of our spring beans and spring oilseed rape which are struggling to get moving.
We are pleasantly surprised by how well the beans have emerged after the Claydon, considering the drilling conditions were awful and we had to roll. The secret was not going to early, cold wet soils make for patchy emergence and poor soil conditions. The later Claydon drilled spring cereals had plenty of  moisture and the one pass cultivate/drill system has given some even emergence. (more pictures of these crops soon)

The concern is the late harvest and storing up problems for next years crops !!

One plant is growing very well - the blackgrass !!

Fury spring beans drilled with Claydon on April 3rd

Clipper Spring oilseed drilled with Vaderstad on 19th April

Sunday, 12 May 2013

One down 16 more to go ?

Drain Repairs
One drain repaired 16 more to go !!
Last week we repaired broken drains and more broken drains. Most of the damage seems to have been caused by the combine during August and September 2012. Not only repairs but ditching and checking drain outfalls to make sure the water gets away. This job will continue after harvest and the mole plough looks like its in for a busy season.

Spring Drilling
The last few weeks have seemed like a 'mini autumn' with drills, rolls and cultivators joining the usual spraying and fertiliser activities.
100 hectares of winter oilseed rape has been resown with spring oilseed rape using our Vaderstad drill.
140 hectares of spring beans (variety Fury) have been planted using the Claydon drill and has emerged reasonably well considering the awful seed bed we planted them into. For the first time in ten years we actually had to roll after drilling.
40 hectares of spring barley has also been planted and some 40 hectares of oats were sown into wet cold seedbeds which dried up very quickly and we need some rain to get things moving. Its already going to be a late harvest and the worry is the knock-on into next season.

Single Farm Payment
If I had to identify one of best uses of on-line technology, in our bureaucratic agri-world, it would have to be the RPA's SPS form. It saves hours of form filling and time travelling to Nottingham. Well done to the team behind this!!
We have hosted a couple of visits to the farm this week from the NFU National Combinable Crops Board and a Worshipful Company of Farmers course reunion. It is a fantastic opportunity to engage in stimulating conversation with other growers and industry stakeholders. None more so than listening to Richard Telfer from Watling JCB about the innovation and drive within this British company.
The farm staff are off on a road trip next week to Claydons to help put together our future cultivation strategy.