A soggy start to harvest brought Peter Sands’ two combines to a standstill after a rainy weekend left fields too wet to get into.
However, an early dry spell saw him cut through 16 out of the 53ha of winter barley, which had been hit hard by the spring drought.
“So far, we’ve harvested 14ha of Volume on sandy land, which yielded a miserly 6t/ha,” he said.
“There was a lot of secondary growth, so we will have to dry it. Roundup (glyphosate) was applied as a desiccant a fortnight ago to even out the green tillers, but that hasn’t had much of an effect. Hopefully, the worst yielding field has been harvested.”
Before the rains came at Ivy Dene, Brewood, Staffordshire, he started on 2ha of Cassia winter barley, which yielded much better at 7.5t/ha.
“The straw on both crops was very sappy, but the grain was only 15% moisture. It will have to be dried because of the green grains in the sample.”
Around half the barley has been forward sold locally at £150/t to Lloyds Animal Feeds. The rest will be sold once it is combined.
Trying out the new combine, a Claas Lexion 770 combine with a 35ft header, has been the early harvest highlight.
“We were keen to try out the new combine before the main rush starts to iron out any problems and everything went well,” he said.
“It replaced the old Lexion 600 Terratrac, which did a good job for three seasons.”
The combining will be split between the Lexion 770 and a four-year old Lexion 570.
A 15t Frazer chaser bin, three tractor drivers and six trailers will accompany the combines on the main cutting campaign.
With dry weather forecast later this week, he was hoping to finish combining the remaining 40ha Cassia and make a start on the 385ha of oilseed rape.
“Most of the oilseed rape has been desiccated with Roundup. The 100ha Cubic should be ready first,” he says.
“We have got our own rape to harvest and a little bit of contracting for other people.
By then, the oats will be ready, but the 710ha winter wheat will not be ready for at least two weeks.”
Harvest got off to a great start for Kent grower Andrew Pendry with all the oilseed rape already cut.
Oilseed rape combining started on 6 July with all 120ha, including 45ha Castille under contract for a neighbour, finished last Friday (15 July) before the rain came at the weekend.
His two John Deere T670i HillMaster combines, fitted with 7.5m Zurn Premium Flow Headers, made light work of the crop.
Average yields at Old Rides Farm, in Eastchurch, on the Isle of Sheppy, have risen sharply to 4.6t/ha this year, compared with 3.1t/ha last year.
The crop was min-till drilled with an 8m Sumo Versadrill, which helped lock in the moisture, he said.
Helped by a wider one in four rotation, the hybrid varieties, grown for the first time on the farm, showed great vigour in the spring drought, he added.
“Drilling all the rape a week earlier last year on 12 August really helped crop establishment. This meant we had already gone through the flowering stage in the dry spell.”
Swathing the crop brought forward harvesting by a couple of days, which helped reduce the pressure on combining, especially for a large crop area, he said.
“We’re in a very dry part of the country, so swathing works for us. It’s a bit traditional, but it brings the crop forward and makes the moisture content generally about 1% drier.”
A 50/50 split of hybrid varieties Flash and PR46 W21 were grown, totalling 75ha.
Flash averaged 5.1t/ha, oil content was 46% and moisture content ranged from 9-10%. PR46 W21 averaged 4.2t/ha, 46% oil content, and 8-10% moisture content.
Because the crop was dry thanks to swathing, it was taken straight from the field to a nearby 5,000t capacity central store, owned by United Oilseeds.
He estimated that the first field of 420ha of winter wheat was also due to be cut this week.
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