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Talking Arable with Andrew Robinson: Reflecting on harvest 2017



Harvest 2017 was concluded on August 29 with spring beans and as expected they produced a disappointing yield of just 4.28 tonnes/hectare, 16% below our five-year average. The only saving grace is that human consumption quality is there and the gross margin looks positive as, due to weather restrictions, they did not have either a post-emergence grass-weed or broad-leaved herbicide, meaning variable costs are just over £200/ha.

 

While it was our earliest-ever finish to harvesting here at Toddington, it was without doubt one of the most frustrating. We did, however, finish drilling rape on August Bank Holiday Monday having started on August 4. This year’s varieties are Extrovert, Alizze and two blocks of the Clearfield variety DK Impressario. Cabbage stem flea beetle are around again this year but thankfully not quite at the same levels as last year due to the weather, but as with any warm, sunny spells we are seeing an increase in pest numbers, so while all the crops are away they are still very much at risk and are being monitored daily.

 

We did have a free bag of DK Imperial seed from Monsanto which had mustard and kale mixed as an experiment to see if the other species detracted the cabbage stem flea beetle from the OSR; early days maybe but we are seeing lower levels of shotholing in this area.

 

Wheat trials, harvested on August 13 this year after weather delays, once again proved interesting. Siskin topped the tree in terms of yield at 12.19t/ha, with Zyatt in second place and Skyfall third. Bottom of the pile was Kerrin at 1.38t/ha lower than the Siskin, with one of my favourites LG Sundance also near the bottom with a hagberg of just 90, a bushel weight of under 72kg/hl and sprouted grain. Skyfall, Motown, Shabras and Kerrin also failed on hagberg but all the varieties had good levels of proteins.

 

Matt’s seed rate trial was for us the most interesting; the 0.75ha plots gave us results of 250 seeds sq.m 11.87t/ha, 350 seeds 11.99t/ha and 450 seeds 12.56t/ha at 14.5% moisture. Thus, with seed rates of 153kg/ha, 214kg/ha and 276kg/ha respectively and a price of £500/t for seed (SPD plus Deter and manganese) and a wheat price of £135/t, the 250 seeds/sq.m versus 450 seeds/sq.m shows the increase in yield financially was £93.15 with a seed cost of £61.50, giving a net margin of £31.65/ha using the higher seed rate.

 

In a black-grass situation this result might be exacerbated but in this trial the black-grass levels where 0%. More work will be done on this next year. Yield by group seem to be similar to other years, with group 1 and 2 averaging the highest at 11.78t/ha and group 3 averaging 11.42t/ha, group 4 soft 11.32t/ha and group 4 hard 11.46t/ha.

 

Unfortunately we had an issue with our moisture meter this year, even though it was checked as it is every year. It was giving us a false reading when wheat came out of the drier, which meant 1,900t of wheat put into two sheds has had to come out and go back through the drier. Instead of being 14-14.5% moisture content the wheat turned out to be 16.5-17.5%. Needless to say we have bought a new meter and will now send it off each year to the manufacturer to ensure accuracy.

 

This is my final column for the magazine; I have really enjoyed writing these articles and being part of the magazine since its relaunch almost five years ago and shall miss writing them. So thank you to all who have commented over the years and good luck to you all for the future.

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