Farmer Focus: Harvest patience avoids drying need for Martin Lawrenson

After six weeks of atrocious weather, harvest finally arrived almost a month late. Many fields had been looking very sad, with patches regrowing and some areas under water.

We were tempted to start cutting when moisture levels were still in the 20s, but with our limited drying capacity we decided to be patient and wait.

As it turned out we didn’t have to dry any grain, although we have been blowing it regularly to keep the temperature down and prevent hot spots. The last of the spring barley went in at about 15% moisture, so it should store OK.

Yields have been surprisingly good, with Westminster performing the most consistently. Our old favourite, Riviera, was the most disappointing, with below-average yields and poor straw, which tended to break up as it went through the combine.

I think that next year we will grow more Westminster and drop Riviera for a better-performing variety.

As we farm in a predominately livestock area, straw is a valuable commodity, especially this year, and prices have been reflecting this. Although yields and quality have been affected by the poor summer, we have been able to fulfil most of our orders.

Potato lifting has ground to a halt while we try to finish harvest. Field conditions were very wet and the break has at least allowed the ground to dry up. When we start lifting again, I hope we will be able to dig quicker and produce a cleaner sample.

Careful filling and monitoring of the stores will be essential this year, as there is a high risk of rots and store breakdown after the bad summer.

I’ve been watching the political conference season with interest over the past couple of weeks. As usual, rural matters seemed to be at the bottom of the political agenda.

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