As the hot dry weather at the end of July and early August rolled on, I became increasingly frustrated with social media, seeing all those in the East cracking on with harvest in perfect conditions, complaining about cereals being too dry during the day.
I had a feeling that 2020, with all its surprises so far, still had another punch or two to land. With only nine days of harvest out of the last three weeks due to a combination of poor weather and crop not fit; and only two of them full days; we are now fast approaching the end of August with still more ahead of us than behind.
It was always a risk with such a high proportion of spring cropping. I am currently exploring options to try to help.
With no oilseed rape going in this year, I was hoping to be able to put 2020 firmly behind us before starting on 2021 to allow a clean break and a chance to gather thoughts and rebuild enthusiasm and motivation before doing it all again.
We started harvest in spring barley, which had a lot more green heads than I would have liked to have seen, due to the way the season went, but with a variety which is very susceptible to dropping its heads, we had little choice but to start when we did.
For the last four years we have grown the variety Explorer and generally got on well with it as a high nitrogen option for malting.
This year we grew another variety alongside, and the difference in yield so far will require a much bigger premium from the Explorer than the £10/tonne currently being offered. The lighter land has, as expected, disappointed the most.
Winter beans was one of the earliest crops harvested due to the speed they went off, which I knew didn’t bode well, and my fears were realised. It did not help that they had podded so low down the plant that half of them could not be harvested, especially after the late frosts in May pushed them even closer to the floor.
I would now like to follow this negativity with a comment starting, on a more positive note, however, I am struggling to find anything to add. Although we have only just started the spring oats, and not yet made a start in the wheat, beans or canary seed, so I guess there is still time.
The team has done well so far to make the most of any half opportunities, but with a forecast which includes another 50mm for early next week and rain every day for the next 10, it doesn’t look like the stop start nature of this year’s harvest is going to turn around any time soon.
Fingers crossed that September brings a bit more joy. Last autumn, when we realised that cropping was not going to go to plan, my overriding aim for this season was to minimise the impact it would have on 2021.
Early September will need to bring a return to the hot, dry, sunny days of early summer if that is to be the case.
Changes to the three crop rule have thankfully come in time to allow changes to cropping on the ground, although late enough to mean a bit of a rethink in a few areas.
This is welcome news for a few farms we are involved with, where efficiency has been dramatically reduced from an increased mix of crops each year. With most farms under some form of stewardship, this has never felt like an appropriate tool and I will certainly not be sad to see the back of it.