Farmer Focus: Call for help as New Zealand harvest turns wet

We all got off to a flying start this harvest, which should have been a warning that trouble lay ahead. Depending on location and mix of crops, many farmers got finished up except for the odd late specialist crop.

In mid-Canterbury, the lower altitude coastal area gets under way a couple of weeks earlier than we do up here at Valetta, so those farmers lower down and with early varieties of grass seed got onto their cereals by mid-February and were on the home straight.

Then there are the rest of us, going along great guns on the grass seed and about to blaze into the cereals. But on the 22 February the weather patterns changed and in the 47 days since, we have recorded rain on 31 days.

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Last year was the complete opposite, January was very wet and miserable and the coastal guys had a torrid start. By the time our crops matured the weather was clear and we had a fantastic run.

Fortunately, here we managed to get our clover seed crops harvested in early March and secure good yields, while several of our friends either have clover still out or have abandoned the crops and turned in the lambs.

Call for help

With a seed company in a blind panic about the next impending deluge, we got a sunny day to harvest our hybrid carrot seed crop and as long as the germination tests OK, we look to have got a very good result on what can be a fickle, but potentially high-returning crop.

However, the cereals are fighting us to the bitter end. Today we resorted to windrowing barley that has lodged and refused to feed into the combine.

The windrower got through the crop like a hot knife through butter and then was easily harvested with the draper pickup, albeit at 21% moisture, which while not high by your standards, will cause us some headaches as we are not setup here to deal with such obstructive harvesting conditions.

The last two weeks neighbours have been helping each other out and I have also reluctantly hollered for help. We have two extra machines coming to get the last of the wheat mown off.

David Clark runs a 463ha fully irrigated mixed farm with his wife Jayne at Valetta, on the Canterbury Plains of New Zealand’s south island. He grows 400ha of cereals, pulses, forage and vegetable seed crops, runs 1,000 Romney breeding ewes and finishes 8,000 lambs annually.