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Talking arable with Ian Matts: Harvest logistics worked well this year

Harvest was all wrapped up in early September having flown through the winter beans in the last few days.

However, there was a slight wait to finish the final field in order to catch the last of the canary seed on a sunny day.

 

As anticipated, it has been a more challenging harvest than last year, not helped by the cropping or the weather in early August but ran quite smoothly once it stopped raining.

 

I am really pleased with how well the team worked and this is backed up by the data from telematics showing greater efficiency than last year, with more time spent actually harvesting, compared to turning on headlands, sitting idle and travelling between blocks.


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Unsettled

I was closely monitoring harvest progress from the start to identify the risk of getting behind, and in early August I had to make the call to pull in some help to cut the spring barley as the wheat was late maturing and the forecast remained unsettled.

 

Unfortunately, by the time the combine arrived on farm the crop had begun to brackle.

 

They had a difficult job trying to capture it resulting in quite high losses, however it has all gone for malting, for what the premium is worth this year!

 

The net margin of the crop looked a lot more attractive last year with the prices just shy of £200/tonnes and a healthy premium, sadly with such a large national crop and good quality across the board that was never going to be the case this year.

 

Logistics

 

I have gone through the detail from telematics with the team to get their feedback on how harvest went from their perspective whilst it is still fresh in the memory and will shortly meet with the hauliers to do similar.

 

Harvest logistics generally worked well this year, with the second year of a dedicated team of hauliers clearly appreciating what we are trying to achieve and seemingly very happy to work with us.

 

I still don’t really understand the regulations on driver hours, but there weren’t many occasions where they ran out of hours too early.

 

Cultivations

 

Cultivations for next year’s crop are nearing completion.

 

These have ranged from nothing where soils are in a good state and we intend to direct drill; shallow cultivations where sewage sludge or FYM have been applied to incorporate it; and deeper cultivations for beans or where we are aiming for the latest wheat drilling.

 

We have also chosen to plough a few fields where black-grass has been building to help bury the seed.

The plan is to make a start drilling winter barley next week, following some much-needed rain that is on the forecast.

 

Despite getting over 120mm of rain in the first couple of weeks of harvest, the lack of rain since has meant soils are getting quite dry again.

 

Digging down there is still a bit of moisture in the profile, but this could easily be lost through the process of drilling, so we are going to need some more soon to allow rapid germination of cereal crops and good efficacy from the pre-ems.

 

My aim for cereal and bean drilling this year is to apply a small amount of phosphate along with the seed to help with root development in the autumn.

 

This, combined with the use of sewage sludge and DAP for the oilseed rape should provide close to the offtake requirement across the rotation, which should then allow just the low spots to be topped up when we are a bit less pushed for time.

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