26 September 1997

Hopeful after worst harvest in 18 years

After an unrewarding summer our Northern Barometer farmer is hoping for a kinder autumn. Andrew Blake reports

AN entry into the national malting barley contest and rapid oilseed rape emergence are among the bright spots at Lodge Farm, Tibthorpe, N Yorks, after one of the most difficult harvests Caley Sackur can remember.

"Our wheat harvest was probably the worst in the 18 years I have been here," he says. "It will hit us hard financially. 1993 was bad. But this time we still had 500 acres to do when the weather broke."

Milling types, which account for two-thirds of the wheat area, suffered most. "We cut about 100 acres of Rialto in relatively good going at 16-17%, but then the moistures shot up.

"At first we only combined when it was down to 20%. But as time went on we had to alter our criteria and cut whenever we could, often at 24%." That required a double-pass through the farms Law Denis continuous flow drier to bring it down initially to 17% to keep abreast of the combine and preserve what quality remained, he explains.

Final reduction to 14.5% involved some late nights and extra fuel costs. "It doesnt seem so bad now we have done it, but it was a lot of hassle at the time."

Early samples had specific weights of 75-76kg/hl. But later milling varieties were down to 72 and some Riband was as low as 69. "Quality this year is the worst I have known. None of the Hereward will make milling, which will lose us £25/t. But I am hoping we shall be able to fill our contracts for Rialto and Avalon."

On the plus side 30ha (75 acres) of Halcyon winter barley after a second wheat turned in 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) of a bold sample at 1.6%N, with 6-7% screenings and a specific weight of 66kg/hl. "We sold it forward for malting at a good price last autumn and it has been entered for the Institute of Brewings national competition."

A similar uncontracted area on more fertile land after just one wheat did less well having lodged. It will make only £85/t. "Its a big difference." Despite modern growth-regulators a standing crop of Halcyon was a rarity this year, he comments.

LODGEFARM

&#8226 Costly wheat harvest.

&#8226 Quality well down.

&#8226 Competition quality barley.

&#8226 Swift OSR establishment.

&#8226 Hybrid inroad on Apex.

Tractor driver Tom Flintoft (left) prepares to spread compound fertiliser on stubbles at Lodge Farm. A switch to a 0:18:36 product is aimed at boosting potash levels, says Caley Sackur (right).