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Steve Heard: Building machines can be nervous work and corn prices are a global worry


It may sound extravagant travelling across the Atlantic to look at machinery but, trust me, the rural Midwest of the United States is not a typical holiday destination for February.

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My idea had been to visit a few different machines in an attempt to finalise the build of a new cultivator. The problem was, the more I learned, the less confident I became in my design or my ability to afford the parts.


Building a bespoke cultivator is not unusual for me, but I am aware whatever I construct will have no respectable resale value and, as such, buying expensive components makes me nervous. For now, it remains only on the drawing board.


Visiting such a different landscape and type of farming is always inspiring, but at times I could not help thinking only the accents had changed. Much of the farmer talk over there was of a readjustment to reduced corn and soya prices.


One agronomist told me how several of his clients had expanded greatly over the past 10 years but they were questioning the sense of high land rentals and huge machinery finance costs, I could not help think of the apparently similar situation at home. Unfortunately our return flight meant we missed one Kentucky machinery sale where the farm was downsizing by about 4,850 hectares (12,000 acres).


Back home, a couple of nice days allowed me to apply some Crawler (carbetamide) as an insurance to potential problem black-grass patches in the OSR, even though the AstroKerb (propyzamide) this season has been fantastic.


To date, the OSR has received the first of three split doses of nitrogen and the late-drilled wheat trials received a little early fertilizer in an effort to promote some much needed growth and increased tillering.


Without wishing to tempt fate, but even after a rigorous crop inspection, we have only found two of my wheat fields which justify considering an Atlantis application.


I honestly cannot believe how effective the black-grass control we seem to have managed so far. For now, I am happy. What a difference a year makes.


Steve Heard, Leicestershire

Steve Heard farms at Illston on the Hill, Leicestershire. He grows a variety of combinable crops on 1,192ha (2,945 acres) of land, which is rented and contract farmed. He also runs an arable contracting business, and is a keen user of new technology.

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