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Talking arable with Neil MacLeod: Soft conditions, damp crop and brackled stems all hampered harvest progress

For the third month in row it would appear that I have no choice but to begin my article talking about the weather.  

Another option could be to open with a paragraph on our country’s political situation, however, it’s probably easier to second guess what mother nature is going to throw at us next, rather than second guess what may or may not happen on or after October 31.

 

Wet

 

The arrival of summer, which is June for us up here, brought with it 50mm of rain followed by 119mm in July, and as I write this (August 25) we have had 114mm in August thus far.

 

A bit of a difference to last year where we experienced our driest summer in 40 years.

 

In the run up to harvest, the incessant rain and lack of sunshine has not only reduced grain fill and caused some crops to lodge but has also left some of our land somewhat difficult to travel on.

Lucky

 

It’s hardly surprising when, a week before we cut one field of oilseed rape, there was flood water lapping a foot up the stem as an adjacent watercourse burst its banks.

 

We have to count ourselves lucky, however, as there are parts of the country that have had it a lot worse than us with some farming businesses suffering irreparable damage to land and buildings.

 

When you see the damage that occurred in Yorkshire you realise we are not all in the same boat.

 

A grain trailer stuck in a field at Southesk and holding the combine up is a stressful situation caused by wet conditions but is absolutely nothing in comparison to the unimaginable feeling of seeing silage bales floating through your farmyard as mother nature has a good go at destroying your livelihood.

Conditions

 

Harvest for us started on August 5, albeit briefly, and over the next 10 days we struggled to cut 140 hectares of winter barley with two combines.

 

As mentioned, soft conditions, damp crop and brackled stems all hampered progress with the only upside being that the crop yielded better than expected at 8.8 tonnes/ha for the KWS Tower and 9.2t/ha for the KWS Orwell, however, both had a poor specific weights of 61kg/hl.

 

The straw choppers were engaged for most of the block, which along with the wet conditions underfoot has put paid to any thoughts of direct drilling oilseed rape.

 

In fact, because of the mess that’s been left in some fields, I have juggled with the rotation to ensure we get rape in the ground before our end of August deadline by moving three farms forward a year and one farm back a year.

 

I hasten to add, there’s no chance that all the rape will be drilled by the end of August.

Yields

 

After harvesting the winter barley, oilseed rape was next on the list with good yields across the Incentive, Harnas and Kielder to average 4.4t/ha.

 

However, I am nervous about quality deductions.

 

There was a proportion of chitted seeds in the pods, which although mostly separated out through the grain dryers cleaner, does not hide what is a fairly dull looking sample in the shed.

 

At least there is some comfort that the rape market is steadily rising with the bulk of what’s in the shed unsold.

 

On another positive note, we have hoovered up all of our Gerald winter oats with relative ease which yielded 8.4t/ha and like all crops so far are above budget and our five-year average crop.

 

Combined with relative ease on a lighter farm, we will now turn this round as soon as possible to establish a reduced oilseed rape area.

 

Looking forward, we are set for a more settled spell of weather but with 400ha of wheat and 150ha of spring barley still to harvest I had better sign off now and get back to work.

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