Harvest finished for us on September 11, three days later than last year, which was not a bad result considering where we were approaching the end of August. It was a very stop start affair this year, as it was for most in our part of the country, and it never really felt like we got going.
Although there were no standout crops for us this season, there were a few that exceeded expectation, albeit a heavily lowered expectation from the start of the year.
Managing expectations is an interesting one, even those of your own. Having played around with forecast yields too regularly during the season I dramatically lowered them after harvest began due to the early results.
As such, any crops that came close or exceeded forecast yields appear a success, even when they are lower than originally budgeted!
The spring sown winter beans helped bring up the woeful average of the winter drilled beans, however the higher seed cost from spring equivalent seed rates did little to turn around the crops financial performance, meaning it wins the award for the poorest performance. The spring and winter wheat top the results table, helped by the recent price increase. Now if only we hadn’t sold quite as much 12 months ago.
I think one of the biggest disappointments for me was the spring oats, which looked full of promise right through to harvest, but were just at the wrong growth stage when the two storms hit in August, resulting in some high losses before we got there to cut them. The crop averaged 5.6 tonnes per hectare, but some of the more sheltered fields were doing over 7t/ha. Just another case of what might have been this year.
Thankfully, finishing harvest when we did, allowed a chance to finish off the 2020 cropping year mentally and move forward to 2021 refreshed and reinvigorated. All the guys have been able to have a weekend off and are now keen to put last season behind us and look forward to the next.
I am intending to start drilling wheat from September 21 onwards on some of the lower pressure black-grass blocks, however we do not want to get too carried away too early this season on the back of last year’s weather. We have the added pressure of high aphid activity so far this autumn and a higher than ideal proportion of winter cereals following spring cereals, so barley yellow dwarf virus and take-all are also threats to early drilling, alongside black-grass.
The wet end to the harvest has resulted in greater levels of soil damage than anticipated, increasing the remedial action required, but some soils that were tined in the spring have been left in much better condition than I had feared they might. Some cover crops have been established ahead of spring cropping and the earliest drilled have come up well. Hopefully these will provide the soil structuring properties we are looking for this year as I am still not entirely convinced with the results.
With no oilseed rape in the ground it has felt a strange and somewhat relaxed start to the 2021 cropping season. This may prove to be the wrong year to drop the crop, with some good-looking crops locally, having established with very low flea beetle pressure so far, but it has helped to reduce the workload pinch point when drilling and harvesting at the same time. Now if I could just find an alternative break crop with a decent margin that will fit in the same harvest window, that doesn’t have such high risks associated.