Fair weather earlier this week allowed our southern Barometer farmers to make short work of their winter barley harvest. James Andrews reports


Peter Snell’s winter barley area was sewn up quickly over the weekend allowing him to make good progress with oilseed rape earlier this week. “We started our one field of Saffron late on Saturday afternoon and finished it on Sunday evening.”

The 8.65ha patch yielded a “mediocre” 7.07t/ha at 14.5% adjusted over the weighbridge, he said. “It’s a little disappointing because of the dry spell, coupled with a slightly too-late main nitrogen dressing and some possible compacted areas.”

Moisture content averaged 15.93% and bushel weight ranged from 68-69kg/hl. “It’s on the drying floor at the moment, but we only need to get it down to just below 15% as it’s for our own use.”

Mr Snell started cutting a 32ha block of Castille oilseed rape on Monday (19 July) and by Tuesday afternoon he had nearly finished his second 8ha field. “We got 4t/ha off the first and the second looks like it will do 4.5t/ha.”

Moisture content started at 11.5% on Monday, but dropped to 10.4% by the end of the day. “It was 12% when we started at 10am on Tuesday morning. But by mid-afternoon, we were down to 11.2% – it cut well and there was little lodging.”

Rain was forecast for Tuesday evening and it was likely to be wet for the rest of the week, he said. “We won’t finish this 32ha today and probably won’t be able to get going until the weekend.”

He had a further 40ha of Vision and DK Cabernet to tackle on his ground at North Farm near Wimborne before moving on to 28ha of Maris Widgeon thatching straw. “Hopefully, we’ll be cutting by the middle of next week – we will be running two of our own binders and we borrow one from a local thatcher.”

He said Solstice, Einstein and Claire winter wheat would be ready towards the end of next week.

Surprising yields

Andy Barr started cutting winter barley at East Lenham Farm near Maidstone on Saturday (17 July) and finished on Tuesday (20 July). All 45ha was KWS Cassia and yields averaged around 8t/ha. “It’s not our top performance but, given the lack of rain, I’m almost pleasantly surprised.”

Cold and wet conditions early in the season set crops back, but hot and dry weather brought harvest in line with previous seasons, he said.

Grain moisture ranged from 12.5%-15% and there was a decent crop of straw that he planned to bale for his own livestock. “We get a contractor to bale it for us and any surplus will be sold.”

One field had been treated with Syngenta’s new Bontima (isopyrazam) fungicide at both timings, he said. “We wanted to compare it to our standard programme, we couldn’t really see a difference. However, this could be because disease pressure was so low.”

Although straw prices were more attractive than previous years, they were still not high enough to warrant baling wheat straw, he said. “We generally chop straw and put the nutrients back in – it would have to be a good price for me to consider taking it off the field.”

Rain was forecast for Tuesday evening (20 July) and it was likely to be wet until the weekend. But his 100ha oilseed rape, divided between Excalibur, Dimension, and PR46W21 was desiccated early last week and wouldn’t be ready until Sunday or Monday anyway, he said.

This year, he carried out some oilseed rape establishment technique trials comparing standard subsoiler-sowing, subsoiler with seed-bed fertiliser and shallow minimum tillage using a Vaderstad Carrier.

“It will be interesting to see the results on the yield meter – they looked different in the autumn, but once they got going we were hard-pushed to tell the difference.”

Wheat was still some way off, but he thought he should be cutting Cordaile and Gallant after oilseed rape was completed in about a fortnight’s time.

See the profiles of all eight Barometer farmers at www.fwi.co.uk/barometer

• code123