Drilling concerns in Northumberland

Harvest is at a halt for David Watson, farm manager at Newcastle University’s Cockle Park Farm, Morpeth, Northumberland, following more wet weather.

With moisture contents in the high twenties, the combine remained under wraps yesterday (30 August), ahead of what was expected to be another unsettled week.

“We’ve cut 51ha of winter barley so far. That gave us 355t, so we’ve averaged around 7t/ha,” said Mr Watson.

“All the barley was split between Cassata, Element and Saffron, and we managed to make the malting grade despite it coming off some poor open cast land.”

Mr Watson had also cut 22ha of oilseed rape, which averaged around 3.72t/ha.

“We’re ready to cut wheat now but this constant wet and then dry is no good for anything,” he said. “I’m nervous of the wheat sprouting in the ear.”

With 60ha of wheat ready to cut Mr Watson was also becoming concerned for the looming drilling campaign.

“We’ve not got a single seed of oilseed rape in the ground yet. Field conditions are probably more worrying than combining is.”

With unsettled showers forecast it was a waiting game to see if any rapeseed would be planted this year.

“I think we’re going to have to treat it on a field-by-field basis. We’ll certainly not be able to min-till this year so it’s going to be a matter of ploughing it.

“We’ll hopefully get some in next week if we get cracking but it will depend on how long the good weather window lasts,” he added.

“We’ll certainly not be drilling after the first week of September.”

Changing his cropping strategy was not something Mr Watson would take lightly, especially as other growers seemed to be suffering the same problems.

“Oilseed rape gives a good gross margin and will be in demand too if people don’t get it in.

“Alternative break crops such as oats and beans aren’t as good as they don’t make nearly as much margin as rapeseed does,” he added.

Crop: Winter Barley
Varieties: Element, Cassata and Saffron
Area: 51ha
Yield: 7t/ha

Crop: Oilseed Rape
Variety: Catana and Compass
Area: 22ha
Yield: 3.72t/ha

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