Farmer Focus Arable: Rape harvest looks good for David Shepherdson

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

Harvest is well under way, albeit in a very stop-start fashion given the miserable showery weather of late. The interruptions have dampened both crops and my mood, as I realise that our Pearl malting barley looks like averaging 2.5 t/acre. That and the lack of premium means the area planned for next year has been halved.

We’re about half way into the rape and so far the results look very promising, the best crops yielding around 30cwt/acre. One field that was hammered by everything that nature could throw at it during the winter will be nearer 20cwt; but at times it looked like it wanted ripping up and abandoning, so it’s not a complete loss at the end of the day.

It proved very difficult to judge when to desiccate the crop with the plants being so variable within fields. With three weeks between the first and last fields I did include some pod sticker with the Roundup to try to hold the more forward plants until the whole field was ripe.

The results will show in a couple of weeks, when we shall see how green the field is.

As the crops are cut, it’s clear that the local wildlife isn’t suffering, with hares and rabbits running out in front of the combine. I can see we will be spending time erecting extra fencing this winter.

I’m also surprised at the number of larger birds in this area. Kestrels seem able to detect a grass topper the moment the engine starts to rumble, and follow it avidly, eagerly picking up small mammals as their cover is removed.

As they say though, there are always bigger fish out there, and even a kestrel backs off when one of our growing number of buzzards swoops in to gate-crash the feast.

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