It’s always a nice feeling to be finished harvest regardless of how it has gone and, with our 2020 efforts concluding yesterday (September), we have shaved a week off our usual date - helped along last week by some glorious windy days allowing very early starts.
As predicted this year’s harvest has had some highs and lows but how could we have possibly expected anything else based on the extreme weather patterns we have experienced in the last year? Crops that were established last Autumn on light land coped with the winter deluge however struggled through the spring drought with the complete reverse happening for the poorer crops on heavy land which seemed to recover well through the warm dry spring after looking miserable all winter.
So all in all our sheds are fuller than expected with yields as follows – winter barley (7.3tonnes per hectare); winter oilseed rape (3.6t/ha); winter oats (6.7t/ha); first wheats (10.3t/ha); second wheats (8.1t/ha); spring barley (6.5t/ha); and finally spring oats (5.4t/ha).
We are yet to find out if our spring barley has achieved malting quality with reports locally that there are significant amounts being downgraded to feed due to germination issues and some uncontracted barley of malting quality being turned away due to oversupply. This trend looks set to continue into next year with maltsters advising that 2021 spring barley areas need to be reduced which doesn’t help when we have already had the same request for our spring milling oat areas also to be reduced.
With potatoes and peas restricted by rotational requirements it doesn’t leave us with many options for spring cropping other than try and get as much winter crop in the ground this autumn, which to be fair we have made a good start to with the whole team working very hard to make best use of the optimal conditions.
To date we have sown 90ha of oilseed rape, 230ha of wheat and 90ha of winter barley with excellent conditions allowing crops to be sown using the first-choice method, not the second, third or even fourth like this time last year.
We have also been a bit braver in our use of the strip drill having made some modifications to allow it to work better in trashier conditions and cover the seed more effectively in wetter soils. This has allowed it to function more effectively, direct drilling wheat after green manure on some of our heaviest land, the type of land that I would quite happily never plough again.
As mentioned last month, this harvest was the last for our Claas Lexion 770 having got nine under her belt. I must admit that our replacement policy is more flexible for the combine than the tractors and having been budgeted to last five years, her reliability made it difficult to justify a change.
Understandably we have had significant interest from suppliers of alternative brands with a total of five demonstrations taking place and highlighting that not all combines and more importantly, headers, are suitable for our damper northern climate. That said, we have been pleasantly surprised with certain models and I look forward to seeing how performance equates to price in the coming weeks.
If nothing else, it’s been very handy in a catchy year to have had 150ha cut by combines that have cost nothing other than the diesel.
Like the combine, all good things must come to an end and after just over two years of writing for Arable Farming, alas it’s time for me to be replaced.
It’s been an absolute privilege to write every month about the goings on at Southesk and I hope my ramblings have been appreciated. All the best everyone and most importantly, keep farming!