Barometer harvest: making the most of it…

A damp and cloudy start to harvest at Cassigill Farm, Ellon, has resulted in a stop-start harvest for Farmers Weekly’s Scottish Barometer farmer, Stuart Davidson, with few windows to make progress with the winter barley.

“By contrast to the good start to harvest down south, 50mm of rain since 27 July and only two consecutive dry days has meant taking every opportunity to harvest when we can,” said Mr Davidson.

“Dull days and a mean temperature of 14.1C have made ripening the crop tricky.”

However, a steady start on 27 July ensured harvest machinery was working well and allowed the team to calibrate the yield monitor.

As of Tuesday (9 August), 164ha of the 460ha of winter barley had been harvested.

Sequel yielded an average of 7.5t/ha at 18.9% moisture, the highest yielding field being 8.9t/ha at 21% moisture content.

“We have yet to start into the Volume hybrid winter barley, but should be there in two harvest days – and it looks like it should yield well,” he said.

Close monitoring of the weather forecast has allowed the glyphosate timing application to be staggered.

“Last year we found Volume could brackle badly if left too long. Therefore, the latest sown fields were sprayed off on 6 August,” he explained.

An added complication of the wet weather has been trying to bale the straw.

“Leaving the straw for a few days when every second day is wet means baling and clearing fields has been difficult.”

With 400ha of oilseed rape to harvest, the first block of Temple was desiccated on 29 July. It should be ready to cut on 20 August.

Some later oilseed rape was still waiting to be desiccated with diquat to bring it in line in 10 days, he said. “I’m keen to see if our trial of using late foliar nitrogen will improve yield.”

Thoughts were already turning to next year’s crop. The first field of Abaco oilseed rape was drilled on 4 August with the aim to have all rape drilled by the end of the month.

The relocation of the farm’s grain store and fitting out of two second-hand grain dryers was expected to be ready by Wednesday (10 August). “With 1,000t of grain sitting wet, we’re hoping for few teething problems.”

Knockothie Farms, Ellon, Aberdeenshire

Stuart Davidson farms 1,050ha of arable ground north of Ellon, Aberdeenshire, of which 890ha is owned and the rest contract-farmed. Oilseed rape makes up 417ha, winter barley 445ha, spring barley 40ha and spring oats 150ha.

david hall

Catchy weather has been frustrating the attempts of Northumbrian farmer David Hall to make inroads in cutting winter his barley.

Harvest started on 30 July, a week later this year due to uneven crop ripening at Blackhill Farm, on the Chipchase Estate, Hexham.

It has since rained almost every day and the farm’s two combines have been largely confined to the shed.

“It’s been frustrating,” said Mr Hall. “We’re not able to get anything cut and we cannot get any fields ready to sow next year’s oilseed rape. We’re at a standstill.

“We have got 100ha of winter barley ready to cut as well as 120ha of oilseed rape, although the wheat and the spring barley are still a fortnight away. It’s just the weather stopping us.”

As of Tuesday (9 August), just 20ha of Carat winter barley had been cut, with slightly disappointing yields of 6.2t/ha at 14.5% moisture content. Bushel weights were 67kg/hl. Barley yields normally average around 6.8t/ha on farm. All the winter barley crop will be entered into the Tynegrain long pool.

Two years ago, following a succession of catchy harvests, a second combine was bought and that decision now looked wise.

“We originally owned a Lexion 460, but instead of upgrading to a Lexion 560 we decided to buy a second combine, a smaller Lexion 430,” he said. “We now run both combines side by side and we can cut 100 acres a day if necessary.”

Straw looked to be in short supply again this year in the region, noted Mr Hall. “We will keep 100 acres of the 1,000 acres we cut for ourselves, but the rest will go in the swath.”

However, the break from combining has allowed him to complete a lot of other jobs, including sheep work and pasture topping.

The John Deere 6930 tractor, hired on 1 August to help with the harvest operation, has been used to cut pasture land to keep it going.

However, with an improved weather forecast for the middle part of the week, Mr Hall was hoping to leave the barley and start cutting oilseed rape on Tuesday (9 August).

“We’re thinking about putting the side knives on the combine and having a go at cutting the rape as it will dry out before the barley after a soaking wet weekend,” he said. “I’m not panicking yet, but if the weather doesn’t improve in the next seven to 10 days, I will be.”

Chipcase Farm, Hexham, Northumberland

David Hall farms 820ha of land north of Hexham, Northumberland, on Chipcase Estates.About 510ha is cropped, including 152hawinter wheat, 128ha oilseed rape, 104hawinter barley, 104ha spring barley and 22ha oats.

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