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Talking Arable with Neil MacLeod: I have never had such an uneven crop of barley in terms of ripeness

As I write this article on July 16, I am delighted to report that the MacLeod family managed to fit in a ‘staycation’ having just returned from a four-day trip to Wester Ross and a stay in my uncle’s chalet. 

This is where agriculture started for me as a young child spending numerous weekends and holidays helping out on the croft in some of the most stunning scenery imaginable.

 

It’s always nice to return albeit different now that I have two young boys to entertain, however, I did manage to fit in an afternoon of farming, helping out with sheep clipping and dosing.

 


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Barley

 

Upon my return we have started winter barley desiccation and so the countdown to harvest begins.

 

I have never had such an uneven crop of barley in terms of ripeness, which can only be put down to the extreme weather patterns we have had this season.

 

A mix of very small but almost ripe heads will probably have fallen to the floor by the time the combine arrives, as we have had to time our glyphosate application on the majority of the heads, which are either at the correct stage of ripeness or, unfortunately due to the odd late tiller, still as green as leeks.

 

We are in a similar situation with our oilseed rape which although two weeks away from desiccation has received an application of lock pod, a product I have never had to use before, to try in simple terms, to glue the forward pods up thus allowing the smaller more immature pods time to catch up. Who knows if it will work, but at £9/hectare I hope it achieves what it sets out to do, otherwise harvest timing for this crop may be tricky and harvest losses inevitable.

Establishment

 

With autumn crop establishment not far away we have been busy sorting through the significant tonnage of winter seed that didn’t get sown in 2019 due to the rain.

 

Five varieties of barley and wheat seed have been sampled and tested for germination and vigour with all acceptable, apart from the second wheat seed that has Latitude (silthiofam) dressing for take all.

 

Now, I’m aware that Latitude is hard on the seed, but I wasn’t expecting a 78% germination with low vigour result after only a year sitting in the bag. If we don’t sow this seed it’s a £7000 loss, however, if we do sow the seed the losses could be greater with vigour being a pre-requisite when growing crops in the north. Any advice on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Crime

 

Some pre harvest capital expenditure has unexpectedly arisen upon the discovery of malicious damage and fuel theft from our grain dryer fuel tank.

 

The damage to the very old existing tank is minimal but has highlighted our lack of on-site security on what is one of our outlying farms. A suitable replacement has been sourced and we are currently going through the motions of an insurance claim for removal of water contamination in 20,000 litres of gasoil.

 

Just what one needs two weeks before harvest. With harvest well underway in the south I have been pleased to hear of better than predicted yields, which hopefully continue as the combines begin to roll further north.

 

With grain stores cleaned and fumigated, dryers and trailers serviced and the combine sitting gleaming in the yard, all we need now is a couple of weeks of glorious sunshine to bring on the crops and then six weeks of the same thereafter. Surely it has to better than last year?

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