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Talking Policy with Mike Hambly: Favourable weather gives hope for early harvest-but then comes the rain


Thinking we were due for an early harvest until the rain had other plans

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Success, weather and hope-what is happening in Mike Hambly's world? #farming #policy

The favourable weather enjoyed through April, May and June gave hope for an early harvest. However, due to rain our early start didn’t transpire and we finally started winter barley on July 30. After completing the first few fields of KWS Cassia, we developed a warm glow of satisfaction, crops were yielding very well, a welcome partial antidote to falling market prices.


Encouraged by the initial success we next tackled the winter OSR. Now I, like most if they are honest, lack any ability to assess a standing crop of oilseed rape with any degree of accuracy. The simple fact the combine didn’t make it first time around before needing to unload was an unexpected surprise. All the rapeseed required some drying and individual fields yielded in excess of the magic five tonnes/hectare. Pest problems reduced the overall average, but the result was still very pleasing.


Much mischief is being made over OSR yields this year. Those who oppose the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments have jumped on the higher yields enjoyed by many this year, seeing them as justification insecticide seed treatments are not required. They have conveniently forgotten that, in nature, not all things are constant and yield variation from year-to-year is quite normal. Taking yields only from the harvested crops hides the true impact of those crops lost before harvest; the true figure should be yield against all acres originally planted.


AHDB Recommended List trials data will show 2015 to be an excellent year for OSR yields. But for those who suffered heavy losses to CSFB in autumn it will only serve to demonstrate the increased losses from failure to effectively control the pest.


Next to the header were the Mascani oats. It’s a crop I always seem to struggle with, never quite achieving the claimed yields of my neighbours. I have two reasons (excuses) for this; first their place in the rotation and second my slightly conservative approach to nitrogen inputs. The thought of lodged oats in a high rainfall area is something which gives me nightmare flashbacks to harvest 2008. Despite this my Kernow Grain members’ report made pleasant reading, the oats had achieved milling quality and my 7.5t/ha yield target.


Reports from ‘up country’ from those into the wheat filled us with excitement. Expectation levels were high after our initial harvest success. In truth I was letting myself get carried away, would I harvest my first ever 12.5t/ha crop? As usual the weather is providing a reality check. The wheat we have cut performed very well but it is the overall average which will count. With almost 102mm of rain in the last week no further progress has been possible and we have endured 170mm so far this month (up to August 25). One brave local grower has been cutting at up to 31.6% moisture as we all expect to face losses from shedding and sprouting due to the very wet conditions.


Problems aren’t just confined to grain, straw trailers which became stuck in fields requiring a tow chain to remove them damaged the soil structure for next year’s crop and I look at the straw which was baled a day early to beat the rain gently steaming in the shed with a slight air of concern.


  • Mike Hambly farms in a family farming partnership near Callington in south east Cornwall. He is currently the chair of the NFU Combinable Crops Board and is the first Cornishman to hold the position.

Harvest surveys  

While (at the time of writing) harvest might be complete for some in the South and East it is far from over for those in the West and North. Until then the overall success and yield cannot be determined. What is critical is we have accurate data to support any views or points we need to make. I would urge you all to complete the NFU Harvest Survey at www.nfuonline.com/hs2015/

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