13 August 1999

Combines off to flier

WE have made a flying start to harvest taking maximum advantage of the hot, dry weather. Early indications are that yields are good with the added bonus of no drying costs to date (Aug 5).

With temperatures in the harvest field being so high we are having to cool grain in store down by blowing at night.

The Maris Otter winter barley was our first crop to harvest on July 17. Two fields totalling 27.75ha (69 acres) produced an estimated 162t to yield 5.8t/ha (2.3t/acre). Approximately 150t have left the farm and have tested below 1.6 nitrogen content which means that we shall earn the agreed malting premium of £40/t. The balance still has to be collected and a final calculation for screenings to be assessed before we can determine the gross margin and decide on the viability of this crop in next years rotation.

The straw from the winter barley has been baled, carted and stacked on the pig unit. It is highly prized by pig unit manager Jasper Renold, and much preferred to wheat straw.

Next came the Mongita perennial rye-grass on July 23, the 12ha (30 acres) took only two days to cut this year, which must be a record.

The next record was the length of time it took to dry the seed down to 14% moisture. Collection was completed by July 30 and I am told that the seed is now on the dresser.

The ex-farm weight was 25.6t and the purity, assessed independently by Owen Davies of the Lincolnshire Seed Growers Association, was 89.2%. In reality the dressed seed weight will, of course, be less than this might indicate, but with prices down by more than 60% and EU seed aid reduced because of green £ re-valuations, I hope the dressings will not be too high!

Threshed ryegrass straw has found a ready market at £1/bale once again, but I have had to concede a price reduction of 20p/bale over 2,500 bales to help get the field cleared.

Our policy of allowing oilseed rape to mature and ripen naturally was not in question this year. The total area of 18.57ha (46 acres) was in two fields. The first to be combined on July 25 was 7.5ha (18 acres) of Madrigal. That produced an estimated 35t at 9% moisture off the field or a yield of 4.7t/ha (1.8t/acre).

Followed by Apex

That was followed by 11.07ha (27 acres) of Apex cut the next day, from which we combined 45t, again at 9% moisture. The yield of Apex was 4.1t/ha (1.6t/acre) and the average yield for all rape was 4.3t/ha (1.7t/ha). For Easton Lodge this is quite a phenomenal yield and necessitated a quick sale of 20t to accommodate planned storage arrangements within the grain store.

This was hauled to a local store using a farm tractor and trailer at an agreed price of £101/t delivered, plus oil and other bonuses as applicable.

Next came the Oliver winter linseed grown on a seed contract for Semundo.

This was barely ready to harvest and in places insisted on wrapping around the table auger, but once off the green patches on the headlands progress improved.

We estimate to have harvested 33t off 13.77ha (34 acres), a yield of 2.4t/ha (0.95t/acre). Not quite the magical tonne per acre but very nearly.

We then took a day off to load grass seed, move oilseed rape, bale ryegrass straw and stack barley straw before continuing with harvest of July 29.

Last of others

This was the last of the "other combinable crops" before wheat, namely Sancho peas, a vining variety grown for seed. The total area of 20.55ha (51 acres) has produced an estimated 82t to yield 4t/ha (1.6t/acre). The sample is both bold and a good colour and we await the seedsmans comments with interest.

Wheat was barely ready to cut when we had 9.4mm (0.37in) of rain on Sat, July 31 thus clinching the decision and giving staff a much earned night off.

By lunchtime of Aug 3 moisture had fallen to 14% and a start was made on 7.84ha (19 acres) of Malacca Class 1 milling wheat. A brief shower prevented us finishing this on the day but by lunchtime of Aug 4 we had 78t in the bin at about 13.5% moisture. The yield was a very satisfying 9.9t/ha (3.9t/acre) considering a drilling date of Oct 14. Quality is yet to be assessed but the sample looks good with a specific weight on farm of 78gm/hl.

The next field to cut was 11.38ha (28 acres) of Abbot sown on Sep 16. This has produced 114 tonnes or 10.0t/ha (4t/acre) at 14% and a specific weight of 82gm/hl.

A good start but with 67.69ha (167 acres) to go there could still be some "tears before bedtime."