Farmer Focus: Dry conditions hamstring spring crop yields

Phew, I am so glad that’s over. As harvest fades into a distant memory, that’s probably the best place to leave it this year, although there are always things that can be learned.

Lessons gleaned from harvest 2017 include a reaffirmation that a dry spring on our gravel soils does not help with spring crops.

Final results show a slightly better-than-average yield from autumn-sown crops despite the spring weather.

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Spring beans, barley and oats have all been well below the average for us. However, the maize still looks really good.

Changes for harvest 2018 will see the beans dropped to be replaced by linseed – both winter and spring. Watch this space, as the autumn-sown version is new to us and should prove an interesting discussion point over the next season.

Our drought-prone soils mean beans can be very variable and the weather this year conspired to give a very poor yield.

Spring beans, particularly in a dry spring, also leave us with a legacy of broad-leaved weeds that further add to the cost of production across the rotation as a whole.

Grain handling upgrade

The investment we have made to the grain-handling and drying facilities over the past few years certainly made a huge difference this year.

To this end I am grateful for the help we have been given by Apecs, as we have refurbished and added to our previously outdated grain handling system. The trouble-free storage of more than 4,000t of crop, including the drying of more than half of it, are testament to this.

Other than the desiccation of oilseed rape I don’t usually use glyphosate, but in a wet year like this it has been invaluable as a harvest aid and we must do everything we can to keep it in our armoury.

I don’t wish to use anything that is not safe for our customers, but all of the legitimate scientific evidence I have seen convinces me it is a safe product.

Finally, I am indebted to tractor drivers Ian and Ken for all their hard work and to Ian for his efforts with the dryer.

Simon Beddows manages 1,000ha of arable land at Dunsden Green, south Oxfordshire. Cropping is cereals, oilseed rape, beans and forage maize.