Having started combining, in oilseed rape, somewhat later than usual on 25 July, Tony Reynolds has found harvest at Thurlby Grange Farm, near Bourne, Lincolnshire, one of mixed emotions.

On the plus side his Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header has performed without a hitch. It was bought new towards the end of last harvest for the Lexion 460 combine, as part of his move to a full direct-drilling system. It has performed so well that it is being used on all wheat due to go into oilseed rape. “It’s worked without a whisper of a breakdown. We’re very pleased.”

And in line with results elsewhere in the area wheat output has been good, one 20ha (50-acre) field of Glasgow giving him the best result he can recall. “It’s done 90cwt/acre dried to 15%.”

The main downsides have been intermittent progress and concern for grain quality caused by wet weather. “We’ve been combining in 30-acre bursts,” he said on Monday after another 11mm stopped work. “I’ve never had such a staggered harvest. Last year was grotty, but this is on a par with 1985.”

Tony Reynolds

Tony Reynolds checking that all grains have been removed from the ears

And at the back of his mind has been the need to deliver the final 250t of a wheat contract signed three years ago at £85/t. That contrasted starkly with the £124/t for a similar batch sold recently for January delivery. “It’s heart-breaking, but the price seemed good at the time.”

Back to the positives, some oilseed rape, Komando and NK Bravour, gave up to 4.8t/ha (38.9cwt/acre) direct-drilled into standing wheat stubble. The best of the conventionally-sown crop managed only 4.3t/ha (35cwt/acre). “If we get towards 30cwt/acre we think we’re doing well.”

All the rape was cut direct using the combine’s conventional table. But Mr Reynolds believes the stripper has helped by allowing wheat combining to take place in slightly damper-than-normal conditions.

However, limited facilities, 800t on-floor dried by a gas-fired fan through a central duct, means 20% has been the highest trigger moisture content.

“We shan’t really know until we get into the 60 acres we need to cut conventionally because we want the straw for cattle. But I reckon moisture-wise we’re half to 1% better off with the header. We’re cooking as hard as we can go.”

About 36ha (90 acres) of Ambrosia second wheat averaged 7.9t/ha (3.2t/acre). “We’re quite pleased with that, although it has had some fusarium in it – it’s a known weakness of the variety.” Some had been sent away for mycotoxin tests, but the results were not yet available.

“The specific weights are all fine for feed.”

A small field of first crop Ambrosia yielded even better. “It did 74cwt/acre. It was meant for seed, but it will now only make feed.”

combine stripper header osr harvest

Stripping avoids having to deal with damp straw

The top-yielding Glasgow unsurprisingly came off the farm’s better land. But even a block of 20ha (50 acres) of black fen peat delivered a better-than-expected 9.5t/ha (3.9t/acre). “I reckon it was assisted by all the moisture we’ve had,” said Mr Reynolds.

All the oilseed rape had left the farm under United Oilseeds pool contract. Last year’s had returned £300/t, he noted. “If we’d sold it ourselves I don’t expect we’d have got more than £140.”

Apart from about 40ha (100 acres) of Alchemy and Humber wheat still to cut, the only uncut crops left were 24ha of Fuego spring beans, still some way off ripening, and some spring linseed. “We’ve got 22 acres of Abacus, which we sprayed yesterday with Roundup.”

The plan, once the wheat was finished at Thurlby, was to send the combine to help out on the 1000ha (2500 acres) Mr Reynolds and son-in-law Clive Patrick run at Burton Lazars near Melton Mowbray, returning to finish the breaks in two to three weeks’ time.

Looking to next season’s crops, Mr Reynolds said he was becoming anxious for his oilseed rape. None had been sown by the beginning of the week. “I like to start on 14 August, so I am concerned. Clive’s not worried – but I am.”