30 August 2002

Pea harvest hits trouble

WE pick up this week where we left off last, with the sorry tale of the pea harvest. Having had too much rain, the crop was not just lodged but flattened to the ground. In desperation I turned to Advanta Seeds UK with whom our crop is contracted for advice, writes John Lambkin.

As we were growing a relatively new vining pea variety, Advanta were anxious for us to salvage as much of the crop as possible and we in turn were equally keen to harvest as close to the 105t in the budget as we could.

We were advised to talk to Rekord Sales (GB), based at Atherstone in Warwickshire, who market the Sund Raking Pick-up imported from the USA. This is in essence a pick-up attachment built into a combine header replacing the normal cutter-bar, lifters and reel.

Curved tines

The pick-up incorporates curved tines which rotate combing up the crop onto nylon stripper teeth. The plant material then passes over a flexible fin draper belt and under the header auger into the combine.

It is essential that the stem of the pea plants break off at the base to enable the header to work properly and, therefore, the crop needs to be more mature than one would require for a normal cutter-bar. Tim Bass, machinery manager for Rekord, answered the phone when I rang their office to enquire about the Sund Raking Pickup. "How about a demonstration?" I asked. He countered by suggesting that I might care to purchase? We agreed to get the attachment to Easton Lodge to try it out, for me anything would be better than what we have, since I had visions of ploughing most of the crop under.

Mr Bass was as good as his word, the pick-up fitted to its own header, complete with plate to fit the New Holland 8080 and a compatible drive to power the hydraulic motor arrived on a lorry the week beginning Aug 12. We fitted it to the combine on Aug 15 and Mr Bass duly rolled up his sleeves and helped us set up the equipment. Forward speed was faster than we could have achieved with the cutter-bar and lifters and for the first time in three years we were able to cut the crop both ways, and not having to slip down the field to harvest one way only.

All went well until we jammed a stone in the cam follower and broke a camshaft and bent a second, just as we had almost completed an 11ha (27-acre) field. A phone call next morning secured replacements via a same day delivery service for the price of a tonne of peas. But rather than wait, we switched to wheat for a days combining.

By Sunday evening, Aug 18, we had completed 31.7ha (78 acres) of combining in three working days and harvested 100t of peas – pretty good going since none of those days did we achieve a start before 12 noon.

Our thanks to Rekord for the demonstration and terms still have to be discussed to cover transport and wear and tear etc. Would we buy one? I suppose the answer would be no, the area sown to peas at Easton Lodge could not justify the price tag of around £10,000, and besides which, I had enough of lodged vining peas to last me a lifetime.

Semi-leafless

I hope to negotiate a contract to grow a more erect, semi-leafless variety next year. Leaving the vine to mature so that the stem breaks, could be fraught some years, especially when growing peas for seed when quality, germination and seed vigour are all important.

Stones were a problem too, since the rotating spring steel tines had a tendency of flicking the limestone into the auger and hence on up the combine where they were broken by the drum and ended up in the grain tank.

However, it was truly a case of Rekord to the rescue, for without the Sund Raking Pickup we and Advanta Seeds we would have been short of peas in a big way.

With the peas behind us and the prospect of continuing with some good standing wheat, we promptly had yet two more days of rain, and were not able to re-start the combine until 4 p.m. on Wed, Aug 21. Moisture was 18% falling very little by 11pm when clammy conditions forced us to stop.

Running well

The following day, moisture was down to 16% and combining was running well, despite some problems in the grain store causing a backlog which forced the harvesting team to have an extended tea break.

The Malacca wheat cut before Aug 17 has been tested. Proteins vary between 13.6 to 14.4, specific weight from 73.7 to 75.4kg/hl and Hagbergs from 178 to 253. These were samples taken at the point of intake to the grain store and were neither aspirated, conditioned or dried. These are not the results we had been hoping for and will clearly downgrade our potential for Grade 1 premiums.

At the time of writing this report, we have cut about 65% of the wheat and seem to be yielding 8.9t/ha. Late sown wheat after sugar beet was a surprise and appears to have yielded 8.64t/ha, that has yet to be tested, but I am none too hopeful for the remaining two fields of Sept drilling, which although they should yield fairly well, look to have lost their Hagberg. &#42

During the recent wet days and early mornings, we have been loading out malting barley sold on contract to Gowlett Grain. Four loads were successfully tipped on a malting contract specification, on a 1.8 nitrogen and below, but a fifth failed to make the grade and was re-directed. Two more have found a home for a 1.85 nitrogen, which has taken the heat off a little. We still have two more loads but will hang on to them until the price picks up again in November. &#42