Cheap and easy harvest for Buckinghamshire farmer

Buckinghamshire grower Ian Waller was pleased with finished harvest at Hampton Bottom Farm, Great Hampden. He tenant farms 500ha (1250ac) on one farm, plus a further 80ha (200ac) on an open contract with another farm.

Oilseed rape had averaged 3.3t/ha (1.3t/ac) this year, with yields up to 5t/ha (2t/ac). He said some had been disastrous and some had been extremely good.

“It was the first year we had grown Lioness, but it was a disaster. The pigeons loved it and the plants suffered worst from the frost damage in the spring.”

Astrid and Castille had performed well, and he planned to continue growing them next year. “Cooling was our only problem, but it was a doddle to combine and a luxury not to have to do any drying.”

Winter wheat averaged 9.4t/ha (3.75t/ac) across the first and second wheats. “It has been one of the better years.”

Two fields of first wheat Malacca averaged 9.4t/ha (3.75t/ac) from 38ha (95ac) and 60ha (150ac), as did 50ha (125ac) of second wheat. Bushel weights were 76kg/hl and protein levels were above 13%.

Fifty hectares (125ac) of second wheat Soissons yielded 9.4t/ha (3.75t/ac) with bushel weights of 82kg/hl, Hagbergs of 320 and protein levels over 13%.

Continuous wheat Hereward averaged 8.1t/ha (3.25t/ac) from 75ha (189ac), with some fields coming off at up to 10t/ha (4t/ac). Hagbergs were at 350, protein levels were over 13% and bushel weights were at 77kg/hl. He said the two fields of Hereward had been continuous for seven and 15 years.

“We’ve had no rain since May 27, but the Thames Valley had two or three inches of rain, which makes a big difference. But we’re slightly cooler as we’re 200m above sea level and so we are about 10 days behind them. It’s good as the summer is when the crops need the time to mature.”

But harvest was still very early for Mr Waller. “The straw was not fit and still green, which slowed us down but at least we did not have to dry much.”

Seventy percent of his crops came in below 17% moisture which meant harvest had been very cheap, a big concern for him. “You have to have been conscious of diesel prices this year but we managed to spend very little on fuel with our new combine.”

All straw was chopped up on the farm. “I refuse to sell the straw – it’s priceless! Straw is the cheapest form of organic matter.”

He planned to keep the same varieties of winter wheat next year in the rotation with Soissons and Malacca, and the continuous crop of Hereward.

Mr Waller’s agronomist Andrew Cotton highlighted many local growers’ concerns with Malacca. He had seen first wheat Malacca yields mainly averaging 8-8.25t/ha (3.2-3.3t/ac) with most bushel weights between 69-74kg/hl.

He said: “Specific weights have been an issue with Malacca. In the Chilterns specific weights are better as it is a little cooler, so they probably finished a little better, but in other areas they are mostly at 72kg/hl.”

Mr Waller wasn’t too concerned premiums haven’t been too high this year: “I grow what I know works and I know where weaknesses are for these varieties so I will stay with them. One year we may get £20/t premium, another we may not, but it all balances out.”

• Crop: Winter wheat
• Variety: Malacca
• Area: First wheat 98ha (245ac), second wheat 50ha (125ac)
• Yield: 9.4t/ha (3.75t/ac)
• Quality: Bushel weight 76kg/hl, protein over 13%

• Crop: Winter wheat
• Variety: Soissons
• Area: Second wheat 50ha (125ac)
• Yield: 9.4t/ha (3.75t/ac)
• Quality: Bushel weights 82kg/hl, protein over 13%, Hagbergs 320

• Crop: Winter wheat
• Variety: Hereward
• Yield: 8.1t/ha (3.25t/ac)
• Area: 75ha (189ac)
• Quality: Protein over 13%, Bushel weight 77kg/hl, Hagbergs 350

See FWi’s Harvest Highlights section for more from around the country, updated every day.

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