14 September 2001

Latest finish for a while

ALL IS safely gathered in with combining completed on Tues, Aug 28 and the last of the straw bales stacked 10 days later. With the exception of the years when we grew winter beans or linseed this is one of the latest finishes we have had for some time.

Table 1 shows our harvest yields for 2001 compared with last year and our 5-year average.

Wheat (table 2) has been both feast and famine. Malacca produced an average yield of 8.06t/ha (3.3t/acre) but contained within that figure is a tremendous variation. The better fields sown in late September/early October averaged 8.88t/ha (3.6t/acre) with the best yielding 9.2t/ha (3.72t/acre). Other September drillings only managed 7.58t/ha (3.2t/acre) off thin stony land that had given up in the drought of early July. But worst of all were two fields drilled after sugar beet in January which dropped to 6.5t/ha (2.63t/acre).

A field of Abbot sown on Aug 21, 2000 and harvested on Aug 24, 2001 yielded 8.09t/ha (3.27t/acre). That was probably a case of the wrong variety, sown in the wrong field too early. We had problems with barley yellow dwarf virus, fusarium foot rot and lodging, so that under the circumstances we have not fared too badly.

The Claire was sown last Oct as a first wheat after peas and looked well all season but failed to deliver at the end. A total of 208.9t was sold off the farm last month for £75/t to produce an average yield for this variety of 7.88t/ha (3.19t/acre).

The plots too were a disappointment, consisting of Malacca, Claire and Marshall but sown at a low seed rate on Jan 26 so it is hardly surprising that the average yield was below 6t/ha (2.42t/acre). The seed size was good however and the Malacca has been cleaned and dressed for sowing this autumn.

Of the other combinable crops (table 1) the barley and oilseed rape stand out as being obvious success stories. We have sold 40t of the Pearl barley to date to make room for wheat. The spot price was £65/t plus a contract premium of £8/t for nitrogen levels averaging 1.64%. We will hold on to the rest in the hope that the barley price improves.

All the oilseed rape has left the farm to average £148.63/t net of levies and weighbridge charges but inclusive of oil moisture and ad-mixture bonuses.

I was amazed at the differences in the testing results and the bonus payments between two merchants. Around 70% of the seed was delivered by our own tractors and trailers to a local farm store and the remaining 30% sold to another merchant who collected ex-farm. All the rape seed was stored in one heap and the lorry collecting the 30% was loaded at the same time as our own trailers. Table 3 highlights the differences between merchants A and B and the price differential amounting to £5.14/t. Had all our rape seed been tested by merchant Bs criteria we would have been £400 better off.

At the end of last season we were out loading standard feed wheat and class 1 milling wheat on two separate contracts to the same merchant but with a £15/t differential. We knew that the feed wheat contract would run short and advised the merchant accordingly and telephoned after the last lorry of feed wheat was loaded. The next day we loaded two lorries with Class 1 milling wheat to finalise the second contract which also emptied our store.

The remittance advice paid one load as feed and the other as milling, the passports of both had been marked as Class 1 wheat but one had been tipped at a feed mill. Clearly the merchants mistake but costing us £405 in lost premium. It took two weeks of firm talking before the mistake was admitted and our premium restored.

Please dont get the impression that I am merchant-bashing, but it does show that we should all be more aware of our contract terms and conditions and be prepared to argue ones corner with conviction.

Autumn sowing has got off to a good start, the oilseed rape was completed on Sept 1, the day before we had a good downpour of rain. Of the 31.83ha (78.62 acres) sown the majority is Fortess, home-saved seed with 4ha (10 acres) of Recital for multiplication. Drilling rate is a little under 5.5kg/ha (4.9lb/acre) and we shall be applying 50kg N/ha (40 units/acre) as urea to aid straw breakdown and stimulate seedling growth.

Following a visit from CYO Seeds last week at which we cleaned and dressed Malacca for resowing this autumn we have started drilling on Sept 4. The early sowings are after peas and oilseed rape at 110 seeds/sq m or 58kg/ha (52lb/acre) and we have used Beret Gold as a seed dressing.

Slugs will no doubt be a problem after the rains of last week so we will have to be on our toes since drilling at these low rates leaves very little margin for error. &#42