Farmer Focus: The good, bad and ugly of harvest 2017

I recently bumped into a stranger while viewing some potato trials, who said: “You’re one of those people who writes a regular weather report in the Farmers Weekly.”

At that point I firmly resolved never to mention the weather again.

However, when I discussed what to put in this piece with some of my staff, they said: “You will have to write about the weather as it has been such a difficult harvest.” There ended a short-lived resolution.

In truth, we have had a trying time, with no more than a couple of days of progress at a time followed by time stood up waiting for it to dry out again.

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In fairness, I have seen worse harvests from a weather perspective, but this year has just been really frustrating.

We have the capability to get through a lot of work in a short period if we can keep moving, but we have just not been able to keep going.

I do wonder how much investment in harvest capability is required for years like this. In practice, there is only so much that can be justified, so it is a case of pushing on when conditions allow and making the best of it.

Overall, we started a bit earlier than usual, but despite the weather, we are going to finish up around normal time, so at least that is a positive.

In terms of crop yields and bushel weights there has been a bit of everything: good, bad and indifferent.

Almost everything has needed drying prior to storage. Shortly, I will be able to get everything measured up and form a final view.

Cultivations for new crops are well under way, with the bulk of the oilseed rape drilled in reasonable time and conditions.

I have taken the opportunity to review our cultivations strategy as we have added some additional contract-farmed land from this autumn.

Our Sumo Trio, while an excellent tool, struggled at times to keep ahead of the drill. I have increased our armoury with the addition of a 5m semi-mounted Lemken Karat and have changed in one of our frontline tractors for a bigger one to pull it. I will report back on progress.


Jeremy Oatey manages 1,200ha of arable land near Plymouth in Cornwall and is 2013 Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year. Cropping includes wheat, barley, OSR, oats, beans, potatoes, onions, swedes and daffodils.