Talking arable with Andrew Robinson: Disappointing harvest

Harvest 2016, so far, can only be described as very disappointing. A lack of sunshine affected all crops, however, wheat was the worst affected by the heavy June rain, especially that which fell over the flowering period.


Boughton was the starting point on July 20, with oilseed rape variety Extrovert producing a very disappointing 3.96 tonnes/hectare, almost exactly 0.5t/ha down on our average for that farm.


Glacier winter barley soon followed, with the worst bushel weight I have ever experienced at 58kg/hl, producing a poor 8.1t/ha.


Oilseed rape back at Toddington was equally poor; the pods were full of seed but very small in size. Alizze, which looked a huge crop, averaged 3.99t/ha, with the balance of Extrovert at 3.72t/ha.


As soon as the old rape crop was harvested we planted the first block of the harvest 2017 crop into ex-winter barley ground. Drilling rape on August 3 is a new one for me, the reasoning behind the decision being an attempt to get ahead of the flea beetle...we shall see.


The second block has been drilled into an excellent but dry seedbed which will require moisture to germinate. The seed for the last block, as I write [August 18], remains in the bag and will until rain is forecast. The ground is all prepared and it will require just two days to drill the 130ha block.


Wheat harvest started on August 6 after an enforced five-day gap due to showers. Gallant was the first variety to go under the knife, producing what I thought at the time was a very unexciting yield, however, this proved to be 0.68t/ha more than Skyfall’s which can only be described as poor, with Toddington averaging 3.89t/ha less than last year’s 13.53t/ha average.


With the Skyfall at Boughton equally as bad, I have taken the decision to drop the variety. Even though it produced our highest ever yield last year it will have the lowest average this year; boom or bust is no good for anyone, I need reliability and stability in a variety. The sad thing is it looked superb all the way through. This variety will be replaced by Siskin which did well in our trials last year, it’s just a shame it’s not a Group 1.


Crusoe produced a beautiful sample of wheat but yield here didn’t excite either at just more than 10t/ha. However, I have to say this variety is clean and as long as it meets milling specification then it will fill the pre-spring bean slot due to its slightly later maturity. Overall it looks like we will be around 10% down on our seven-year average and a whopping 21% down on 2015 harvest.


Cultivations have gone really well, with the dry ground being perfect for this farm. Mole ploughing has become a big feature for us this year, with our plan to mole around 500ha. So far around three quarters has been done; the mole produced is superb and should give us a few years’ benefit.


Spring beans are still to be harvested; these will be desiccated next week. They too will be unexciting, however, if we can harvest them dry that will be a bonus as thankfully this year very little has gone through the grain drier.


Attention is now firmly focused on next season and ensuring the new crops get off to the best possible start. As disappointing as this harvest has been, we cannot change anything nor would we have honestly done anything different. In the end Mother Nature has a far greater effect on yield than will ever be gained from a can or bag.


Abby Kellett
Posted by Abby Kellett
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