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Steve Heard: An early start to harvest, and analysing new cultivation methods

With one of the earliest starts I can remember, the two combines rumbled into action on July 16.

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The first few days of harvest were interrupted by a thunderstorm which provided the team with a spectacular electric display, lighting up the late-night skies, followed by torrential rain giving a welcome excuse to go home for some well-earned sleep.

 

The return of uninterrupted scorching sunshine allowed us to complete the 540-hectare (1,336-acre) oilseed harvest in just a 10-day period.

 

I am not going to publish any yields for fear of fuelling any further pressure on commodity prices, or perhaps because they fall embarrassingly short of what others in the industry claim they can achieve. For us they are around average.

 

Some careful comparison of our combine yield maps will be needed to try to explain how such even-looking crops seem to have varied in output more than I had hoped.

 

The continued beautiful weather allowed much easier combining of the storm-flattened patches of winter oats which have yielded a nice dry and bright golden sample, now safely stored away.

 

Frustratingly, the milling wheats are not quite ready yet, even having received a glyphosate spray to tidy up the green grass-weeds. Fingers crossed, we can also get them harvested before the weather inevitably breaks and the quality risks being washed away.

 

Cleared fields are quickly being converted to a new style fine shallow seedbed, as we try to encourage a first flush of black-grass.

 

Never before have I given so much attention to these early cultivations which are just the start of a new establishment system pushing me outside of my comfort zone.

 

This year will be a big learning curve as we compare my new cultivation methods against our existing tillage system. Only time will tell if the extra effort rewards us with cleaner crops; I will be annoyed if it doesn’t.

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