Farmer Focus: Good weather brings fast harvest finish for David Shepherdson

An excellent stretch of good weather brought harvest to a swift close; hot sun and strong winds counteracting the odd showers.

It has to be one of the earliest completions I’ve encountered, wheat being one of the heaviest and driest crops we’ve cut for a long time.

A prompt finish allows a good start to the drilling season, starting with oilseed rape. Three-quarters of the crop will be hybrids this year, mainly Excalibur. After our first shot at growing hybrids last year, they do seem to have the edge over conventional varieties yield-wise, the only penalty being extra long stubbles, which may prove troublesome to bury on our thinner soils.

Wheat varieties have been chosen for the coming year and we are sticking with Robigus for first crops, with a tonne of Scout seed bought as a trial. A heavy cut in the winter barley area means Duxford will be grown as a second wheat.

It looks as though spring beans return to the rotation this year. This is partly to avoid pheasant damage in fields where they would hammer small oilseed rape plants, but also to try to spread the rape more thinly in the rotation. We’re at one year in three at the moment and I’d like to reduce this to one in four.

Marketing the harvest produce is going to be a challenge.

This is the first year we’ve had not malting barley contracts to move grain straight away at harvest; so far everything is still in the barn.

One cannot forget the high costs of producing this year’s harvest, with the price of fertiliser being the main burden. Holding out for higher prices is now the name of the game, though most of us can only weather the storm for as long as cash-flow dictates.

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