Trouble at both ends
THIS years harvest has been a long, drawn out affair with problems both at the beginning and the end.
Particularly frustrating was the 10 days of rain at the end of August preventing us from finishing the wheat. We had to juggle with bin space in the grain store to harvest the final 40t, hence the surprisingly late finishing date of Sept 8 when it might have been possible to complete three days earlier.
The variety assessment plots sown after set-aside and November-harvested sugar beet were a disappointment, as shown in table 1. Only Abbot and Drake were combined in August before the rain and have since been cleaned and dressed for seed. The remaining 10 varieties were weighed and spread on the heap of feed wheat and averaged a yield of only 6.54t/ha (2.6t/acre).
Charger was a particular surprise, since it had been our intention to save this for seed. By September there were too many sprouted grains to risk drilling. Both Reaper and Chianti were badly laid by the time we got to them, although this was not reflected in the yield of the latter. The plot of Hereward yielded well as did this variety elsewhere on the farm. Too bad we have dropped it in favour of Abbot.
The performance of the commercial wheats (table 2) reveal a remarkable difference between varieties. But the factors affecting yield are far more than varietal and have more to do with drilling date and establishment.
The Vivant, drilled after peas in a disced seed-bed, got off to a flying start and never looked back. Moisture was well conserved and nearly every one of the 136 seeds a sq m sown in August last year grew.
The Consort, sown after ploughed-in set-aside, was slower to establish, needed some patch redrilling and suffered from a wheat bulb fly attack.
The Ritmo, too, suffered from dried-out seed-beds and was partially redrilled last October. The worst affected was the Hunter drilled after ploughed-in linseed stubble. Rough, dried out seed-beds produced poor establishment which had to be patched up in November.
The shining light after Vivant was the Hereward, which, had it been fit enough to harvest in August, would more than likely have been the jewel in the crown, with good proteins and a high hagberg.
Unfortunately, we had to wait until early September, several rain storms later, before we were able to gather in what promised to be top class milling wheat. The wheats are all dried down and await sampling, but I am not too hopeful with regard to quality.
Table 3 shows a round-up of the complete harvest, which, for us, has been a good one, with most crops showing better yields than our five-year average. This years average wheat yield of 7.61t/ha (3t/ acre) has only once been bettered and that was in 1993. The oilseed rape is almost equal first to 1996.
Winter linseed yield is better than the five-year average for spring linseed and only marginally failed to equal the best yield in 1993 of 1.79t/ha (14.3cwt/acre).
The Riviera spring barley looks on the thin side. Although it may yet surprise us, I feel happy with the assessment of 6.0t/ha (2.4t/acre).
The Sancho peas have been exceptional, not a word I would use for the Belramo perennial ryegrass, which has let us down badly this year. *
Table 1: Variety assessment plots
*Combined on Aug 21
+Combined on Sept 1
x Combined on Sept 8
Table 2: Wheat harvest 1997
Table 3: Harvest yields 1997