David Shepherdson fares better than most harvesting barley and rape

David Shepherdson and his father rent about 182ha (450 acres) of arable land, mainly thin limestone, on the Dawnay Estates near Scarborough, North Yorkshire where they grow wheat, barley and oilseed rape. He also undertakes contract work including all spraying on another 100ha (250-acre) farm.

By some unusually good fortune, we have fared better than most and managed to get the barley and rape in before the heavens opened, although it all had to go through the grain drier.

The barley has now all gone. I thought we’d broken into the magical realms of 3t/acre off the combine, but alas the weight tickets say 2.9t/acre.

All was Pearl and went for malting. I also regret to say that had I sold it in June instead of hanging on we could have been £45/t better off. Lesson learned.

With half a dozen different rape varieties, crops were variable, but consistently disappointing. It’s still all in the shed, but 1.25t/acre will be about right.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether you throw a fortune at it or leave it to fend for itself, as yields seem fairly static. One thing I’ve found this harvest is that a field that germinated badly last autumn had half as many plants as the rest, yet yielded just as well, if not better. Perhaps we could risk cutting seed rates a little?

As soon as we get the wheat cleared, soil sampling will be the order of the day, to establish what P and K is required. Quotes for August are £575 for 0:20:30, which is totally unacceptable, and I would urge everyone not to buy.

As we’ve seen with sugar beet contracts, if enough farmers join forces we can strike quite a blow at these monopolising companies. If no one has ordered their compounds by Christmas, I think we could be looking at a much lower price and perhaps we would come out on top, for once.


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