Organic Arable has just Tweeted that one of our producer members is combining Mascani at seven tonnes/hectare. Add that to this season’s low moisture readings and it is a very satisfying yield – and a hard act to follow.
I have just treated myself to a handheld sample harvester, so I am all enthusiastic and diligent about taking multiple moisture readings. It certainly speeds up the process and alleviates the chore of rolling out endless handfuls of grain. Mascani has a reputation for the straw remaining green even when the grain seems fit.
Last week, to illustrate the point, Mascani straw brought my neighbour’s combine to a grinding holt. So that old adage – just when you think it is ready, go on holiday – seems good advice. My oat supply contract stipulates 13.5% moisture, if we manage to bring the crop into store at that level and it requires no further drying then it will be a first and a considerable saving.
The earlier harvest has cut the rogueing window short. The team is racing to deal with a few remaining clumps ahead of the combine. Rogueing is worthwhile and well-paid employment for cash-strapped students. It is also a good opportunity for them to learn about farming and food production.
When first coming to Hemsworth seven years ago, I viewed getting on top of the weed burden as a capital investment. It is now relegated to an annual overhead and the cost allocated either to the individual fields or to specific crops. This year only two winter oat fields required intense work; otherwise the pernicious weed has been mercifully scarce. No doubt helped by the drought.
I find it Interesting that in the Netherlands it is a criminal offence to permit wild oats to grow. Perhaps their harsh winters help, but in the UK, regardless of the farming system, wild oats seem to be disconcertingly abundant.
I think I ought to come clean and own up to the disaster of my min-till experiment (April issue). The sheep did an excellent job of eating the vetch/rye-grass cover crop down to bare soil. But then, as we are all only too painfully aware, it rained solidly for several weeks. The rye-grass grabbed its opportunity to get well away and we ended up having to mow it. I knew then that it would probably all end in tears, but we still stuck to the original plan of establishing barley into min-tilled cover.
By mid-July Neil, who drives the combine, was inspecting the mess of rye-grass and poorly established barley, with dismay and trepidation. To humour Neil, and for damage limitation, I sold the 8ha as wholecrop to a nearby livestock enterprise.
If only there was some moisture on the horizon we could now take the opportunity of early entry into the field to establish the subsequent three-year herbal ley. But even that is not going to be an option. Nothing will germinate. We had all of 0.9mm two days ago. Bringing rainfall to a grand total of 8.3mm for the last six weeks.
What has been graphically illustrated is the recovery of the deep-rooted herbal leys in contrast to the simple white clover and rye-grass mix. Both were cut for silage on the same day in June and the photo taken four weeks later.
The likely shortage of straw this year is concentrating my thoughts. With prices at above £100/t it is tempting to cash in, but I think it would be a short-term gain and a long-term deficit. It is farm policy to chop all our straw. None of the cattle are in over winter and it skews our nutrient budget big time to export straw off farm. One tonne of winter cereal straw takes off 1.2kg P, 9.5kg K and 2kg Mg (AHDB). Off-take from spring cereals is even higher.