Archive | February 2015

Priming Results

Dear All,

Evaporation 15th to 21st February,
2-3, 2-19, 5, 6, 6, 4, 4

I have just received four trail cameras which I am using for security around my barns. Battery operated they can be set up anywhere and record the videos or still photos on a memory card, which can be quickly removed and viewed on my computer in the office. It is called the HCAM6210 and was supplied by At GBP 185 each they are not cheap (add something for the SD card and courier to Zambia) but they only have to prevent the theft of a few bales to pay for themselves. Spycamera were very efficient – I think I had the cameras within 10 days of finding their website. If you buy the MM version (I don’t know how much more expensive) you can fit a Sim card and it will text you whenever it records an intruder – with good network it can even send you the photo or video.

The results of the stalk measurements indicate that priming just before topping was the best. We planted this crop on 23rd August and our first priming was 15th October, second 29th October, topping 4th November and our late priming was 13th November. The differences in the averages are about 80kg/ha and priming on the 15th appears to be better than priming after topping. We have a much earlier priming experiment in the October crop (in relation to planting and topping). I just hope the trial can still give us meaningful results after the hail.

(The hail pay-out looks like it will be about 50%, and I still hope to harvest about 75% of the weight that was there – so I could be 25% ahead. But, if that 75% is badly bruised (which it will be) and the grades drop to 4, I could only earn 30% of the value – leaving me at about 70% income, and NO profit.)

The other trial results were most positive for Omnia’s KelP-max, about 50kg/ha with a double dose; the 50kg more than enough to pay for it and the cost of cupping it on. MAP in the planting hole did not make much yield difference, but it did seem to make the crop very much more uniform. Standup (a humic acid snake oil) had no effect, as did Vydate and Eco-T. I would not put a LOT of emphasis on these results, but they do show that our scientific knowledge is only won by hard work and careful analysis. It should not be dismissed lightly.



30 tonne maize

I am sorry, this was meant to go last week, but I failed to log on.
At least I have SOME evaporation figures, and, with a bit of luck, a downhill slope and a following wind, I should be able to keep it up….for a while.
Evaporation 13th and 14th of February, 6, 5-22

We have just been looking at some curing trials we did, mostly on 326, in the 3 different curing systems. My reaping foreman (who has many year’s experience, even though not much of it was in the barns) and I looked through the 7 different samples and tried to rank them. We both agreed on the best, and most of our other rankings were within one or two positions of each other (I put a sample at 3rd, he put it at 5th). I think I mentioned in a previous blog that we had taken a clip of 326 and jumped it forward 3 days in the tunnel – well, that came out worst (by both my and my foreman’s ranking). The 326 in the 7 barn Chongololo seemed to be the best, but the differences were small and I look forward to analyzing several 100 sold bales, to get a more accurate assessment.

My stalk measurements on my priming trial have been completed, so I will do the maths on them ready for next week’s blog. My Vydate trial (on the irrigated 326) suggests NO response to Vydate at 4 litre or 8 litre per ha. This was real McCoy Vydate, not a generic. I have done these Vydate trials for several years now, but this is the first time I have done them on a proper replication – 6 random plots for each treatment. If our prices are rock bottom terrible, and if I decide to still grow tobacco and If I decide to grow 326 (that is three Ifs – some of them bigger than the others) I may well cut right back on Vydate, only treating a small portion, to see if it does make any difference on a scale larger than my replications.

Patrick had a visit from Michelle Du Toit, who said that early priming not only slows the crop down, but also interferes (negatively) with the Nicotine/Sugar ratio. We MUST be very careful to only follow proven advice. (I have just read a lovely article on why Humans tend to doubt science – worth reading Margins are going to remain tight to non-existant, and, whereas it is still important to experiment to find new techniques, we should only adopt those techniques when they have been proven to be beneficial. I have been telling my small scale neighbours that the American maize yield has just been broken – 31.6t/ha. One jokingly replied that it must be Witchcraft. Of course we know it wasn’t; but it equally wasn’t achieved by using unproven magic potions. Just carefully reasoned sound science.


Andrenalin and trial results

Sorry, a short blog this week.

On Thursday morning I had the biggest Andrenaline rush I think I can cope with. Any more and it would have been heart attack. I was just waiting to be called to the tunnel to push trolleys when they called me with the words “The tunnel is on fire”. The day before, one of the trolleys had come off it’s rails and knocked a fluorescent tube off the ceiling, exposing bare, live, wires. I had arranged for the electrician to come in with us, with his tools and a step ladder so that he could fix it. My first thought was that these wires must have shorted and ignited the drying tobacco. Now I have never heard of a fire in a tunnel, but I imagined they would burn pretty well.

In fact a little bit of scrap tobacco had started to smoulder on top of one of the radiators and a worker (who comes in with a knapsack of dilute Jik – to control barn rot) put it out with his Jik. So, I got a free cardiac test and no harm was done. But why did it start to smoulder? The radiators have been in contact with scrap tobacco for years (even though we clean them once a month) and water at 105C should not make dry tobacco burn. The tobacco there should also be too dry to start composting. I suggest you check all the dark corners near YOUR heat exchangers, radiators or otherwise.

The first of my stalk measurement tests has come in and it shows NO response to Vydate – 4kg or 8kg/ha. I have been doing these tests for a number of years now, but this is the first time I have had 6 replications of each treatment. 6 x 16 plants of NO Vydate, 6 by 16 of 4kg and 6 x 16 of 8kg…and there is NO difference, just random ups and downs. There are several other trials we are still gathering data from, and I have another Vydate trial in the October field, but I would still like to see SOME response to Vydate, to justify all that expense.

One experiment we did do, is we jumped a clip 3 days forward in the tunnel and it cured without any Z or even K. So, more to learn there too.