6 September 2002

Record crop of wheat…

PROLONGED wet weather has probably prevented us breaking the 10t/ha (4t/acre) barrier with this years wheat crop, writes Tim Green. Nevertheless, at just short of 9.5t/ha (3.8t/acre) it broke our previous record by more than 1t/ha.

The crop was grown on our best land in the valley and not the usual flint-laden brash on the plateau which is prone to drought. Although there were some lodged patches caused by one violent downpour, the crop stood well and had not gone as black as some fields in our area.

As usual, our contractors were delayed and instead of starting the triticale at 4.30pm they went directly into the wheat at 9pm. We are always keen to combine wheat at night to maximise the yield of straw because there are fewer shattering losses. Triticale on the other hand, needs drier conditions because it does not thresh out so easily.

We kept going in the wheat until 4am when moisture levels reached unacceptable levels and our last delivery to the local store was at 3am.

We started combining at 14.5% moisture and a specific weight of 76kg/hl, but those figures slipped to 16.5% and 71.8kg/hl respectively, which will mean some price penalty. However, with the extremely difficult and unpredictable weather, our main objective was to clear the field before more showers arrived.

With luck we will have delivered sufficient dry wheat into the store to average out the figures and we will suffer fewer financial penalties.

At the depot the heaps of wheat soon outgrew the available storage space, and grain had to be stacked outside using makeshift walls of straw. Showers were ignored and, if prolonged rain was imminent, plastic sheets thrown over hastily.

Our price is supposed to be almost k87/t or about £55.60/t, less taxes of 78p/t.

The remaining hectare-or-so of wheat was finished early the next day to give us a flying start in the triticale in reasonable conditions. Unfortunately, that did not last, and harvesting the last few hectares proved a slow and difficult business.

Despite the frustrations, the crop finally came off at a respectable 7.2t/ha (2.9t/acre). The yield cost me a bottle of champagne, because I forecast less than that. Having drilled it at 126kg/ha (112lb/acre) instead of the planned 140kg/ha (133lb/acre), the crop looked thin although the ears were very long.

Keep for feeding

Since triticale is more difficult to sell than wheat, we had planned to keep it all for feeding. We will have to keep a careful eye on the crop in store because the moisture content of 15% is higher than we would like.

Because our cowman Jacques was on holiday, it also difficult for the trailers to keep up with the combine during afternoon milking. Some had to be tipped outside on the concrete until I had time to haul it. Although we have a number of willing helpers, they are not sufficiently experienced to drive tractor and laden grain trailers down our hill.

We seem to have been lucky with our triticale at Vimer. Many neighbouring growers are complaining of poor yields so the area is likely to be down next year. But the crop was difficult to thresh cleanly, which could prove to be a problem at the roller mill.

One advantage is the large quantity of straw which amounted to 5t/ha (2t/acre) and will make a useful saving on purchased straw. The wheat straw, which suffered rain in the swath, needed turning. That proved a headache, with the large volume of straw, estimated at more than 6t/ha (2.4t/acre), blocking under the tractor or swamping the turner.

On the bright side, the rain boosted the maize yield and saved the summer grazing, which was becoming parched. On balance, we will gain more from the extra grass and maize yield than we lost on the cereals.

One problem with our maize is that it is not very high, as everyone keeps reminding me. Although after a slow start the crop looked well and showed a healthy, dark green colour and good cob development, it is uniformly short. I dont think the cause is too little nitrogen. Rather it is poor seed-bed preparation caused by power harrowing at too fast a speed. That resulted in a shallow, uneven seed-bed and the seed drilled too shallowly. Another problem could be that phosphate levels are too high. We use regular applications of milk-based slurry and although we stay within the guidelines, perhaps we are applying too much.

Its been some time since weve been troubled with wild boar in the cereal crops. This year boars have only slightly damaged one field of maize.

The hunting season normally starts on Sept 22 but farmers south of Vimer are pressing for an earlier start. The reason, they say, is due to severe crop damage. Of course their requests could have something to do with their being hunting mad and wanting to enjoy some sport before harvesting maize and drilling cereals. &#42

Earlier in the season. after a slow start, Vimers maize crop looks well, according to Tim Green. But its short stature has proved a talking point for his neighbours. Poor seed-bed preparation or too high phosphate levels could be to blame, thinks Tim.