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Talking arable with Neil McLeod: Rain comes at wrong time

Well what a difference a month makes. After spending most of our summer attempting to perfect the ultimate rain dance it would now appear that the man above is attempting to restore the norm for this time of year and, having witnessed the combines rolling, is refusing to turn off the tap.

 

Harvest at Southesk started on July 25 about two weeks earlier than normal. However, as I write this article (August 22), it seems unbelievable after the summer we had that we have only cut 248 hectares out of 930ha. A mixture of catchy weather and oilseed rape so variable in senescence has meant we have struggled to cut any field completely without leaving green mosaic-like areas for another day as the header repeatedly came on and off to move between blocks. Although this very inefficient way of crop harvesting has paid off by saving most of the pods that were at the point of splitting and being patient to wait for the rest, albeit still managing to plug the combine on two occasions resulting in a total of eight hours downtime.

 

Growing both SY Harnas and Incentive, totalling 180ha, our oilseed rape harvest has been most pleasing with a significant split between the light and better-bodied land yielding 4.22 tonnes/ha and 5.12t/ha respectively, although oils are unknown as yet. This followed a good start with KWS Glacier feed barley yielding 8.76t/ha with a decent amount of straw to bale. The wheels have slightly come off since then though with our winter oats struggling to achieve 6.5t/ha, let alone our budgeted 7t/ha. Currently we have 350ha of winter oats and wheat desperately ready to cut.

 

Never have I experienced a harvest where everything is coming at once, so I am grateful that I took the decision not to apply any pre-harvest Roundup (glyphosate) this year. With the arrival yesterday of a second combine, hired from Claas, and with a few good days forecast, hopefully we should clear the backlog.


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OSR trials

 

The oilseed rape trials that we hosted on behalf of Bayer were harvested on August 5 with results as follows – DK Exalte (4.6t/ha), INV 1020 (4.20t/ha), INV 1035 (4.15t/ha), INV 1140 (3.98t/ha), INV 1155 (3.95t/ha) and INV 1030 (3.88t/ha).

 

These 1ha plots grown within a field of Incentive received identical inputs throughout the year as the field standard which yielded 4.28t/ha. The InVigor varieties now fall under the BASF banner, so hopefully these results will help them assess their suitability for the North.

 

Our thoughts have obviously now turned to oilseed rape establishment, although our Vaderstad strip drill has barely been out of the shed yet as conditions remain somewhat catchy. Based on the early start to harvest, I was hoping to increase my rape area at the expense of winter barley but, as we race towards our end of August establishment deadline, I will be happy to achieve my planned area let alone any increase.

 

Like harvest, it feels like we have not yet managed to sow a field without having to stop due to rain, which is then having knock on implications for our pre-emergence application of Sultan (metazachlor), Cirrus (clomazone) and Derrex (ferric phosphate).

 

With the weather bringing proceedings to a complete halt on a few occasions it has allowed us to bring forward some winter drainage and jetting jobs (albeit begrudgingly). We also found time to spread about 1,000t of dung that we import and then to travel north to dismantle a nearly new weighbridge that we acquired, which is surplus to requirements due to the imminent completion of the Aberdeen Western Periphery route. This will be reconstructed when we get a minute (hopefully not too soon) to replace our existing model. Hopefully these will be the last of the odd jobs for now as we look to crack on with our harvest and drilling campaign.

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