Cool, catchy weather means crops have been frustratingly slow to ripen in the north. James Andrews caught up with our Scottish and Northumbrian Barometer farmers earlier this week.
Damp and dreary summed up Mike Eager’s harvest at Trinlaymire farm near Linlithgow on Tuesday. “We’ve managed to cut 463 acres of winter barley so far, but it’s only because we are set up to deal with the weather up here.”
Even though all barley had been sprayed with glyphosate, cool temperatures meant crops were “frustratingly slow” to ripen. “There has been no heat for natural desiccation and we’ve been hunting around for crops that are ripe enough to cut.”
That said, he was pretty pleased with the campaign so far. “Volume has performed very well, yielding 7.5t/ha and coming in with good bushel weight. Retriever and Saffron gave slightly lower yields, averaging 6.5t/ha.
“It probably did pay to be patient as we managed to get all the barley in between 16-18% moisture, which is pretty good for us.” All had already been run through the Alvan Blanche continuous flow drier and was ready to go, he said.
The market had also picked up and all feed barley had been sold for harvest movement at £130/t. “It’s turned completely on it’s head and I could be getting a £5-10/t premium for Pearl if the germination is still there.”
Just 60ha of Pearl remained to be cut, but a wet forecast for the week meant he wouldn’t be able to get going until the weekend or early next week. “We’ve then got 430 acres of oilseed rape, which is mainly Temple. We’ve got a bit of Alienor, but it’s not looking as good as the Temple so I’m going to drop it this year.”
Oilseed rape drilling kicked off on Sunday, he said. “We’ve sown 110ha of Temple so far. It’s good for light leaf spot, which we struggle with up here, and as it’s a conventional variety, we can afford to increase seed-rates on some of the knottier fields.” Despite the on-off showers of the past few weeks, soils were still dry at depth.
Wheat leaves and stems were still green and wouldn’t be ready for at least 3-4 weeks, he said. “We’ll be using Roundup to finish it off – it’s an essential harvest aide for us.”
Barley harvest was sewn up quickly on Monday evening, despite a combine breakdown, allowing David Hall to forge into oilseed rape.
Weather had been catchy for the past two weeks at Blackhill Farm on the Chipchase Estate, Hexham, but slow-ripening crops had been the main hold-up, he said. “We managed to dodge most of the rain, and got the barley in between 14.5 and 16.5% moisture. But we have been held back waiting for it to ripen.”
Yields were higher that expected, with Carat achieving 7t/ha on lighter ground and a decent crop of straw. “We’ve sold the straw in the swath for a good price – the thickest has gone for £150/ha.” Bushel weights averaged 68kg/hl and all had been entered into the Tynegrain long pool.
Later-cut barley on some of his heavier ground had suffered from frost kill and was down to 6t/ha. “In general, I’m pretty happy with the barley yields. We normally average 2.8t/acre (7t/ha), so to be averaging just under that this year is good.”
Wheat was turning slowly and would be desiccated this week. “We put 2 litres/ha glyphosate on everything to even it up and leave a clean stubble underneath.”
Last week the hydrostatic pump on his eight-year-old Claas Lexion 430 packed up, leaving the farm’s principal machine, a Lexion 460, unaided. “Thankfully our local dealer, Rickerby, was very good and we only lost it for a week. They’ve managed to fix it which I’m hoping will be half the price of a new part.”
He was now tackling Castille oilseed rape, which would be followed by 40ha Excalibur. “The Excalibur looks much better than the Castille – the seeds look very bold and hopefully they’ll hold some weight.
“We’re looking to finish cutting the oilseed rape this week and we’ll start drilling next year’s crop on the winter barley ground.”
Catana would be planted first, followed by hybrid Excalibur after the wheat had been cut. “There should be plenty of moisture for it to get going and the ground conditions should be perfect.”
• For more on Mike Eagers and David Hall, visit our Barometer farmer web page at www.fwi.co.uk/barometer