FARMER FOCUS: Harvest results are a nice surprise

The harvest was again a stop-start affair for us this year. On a positive note, the wet spell in late August allowed us to go to a wedding with a clear conscience.

Harvest results are surprisingly decent. The winter wheat average on my land has exceeded 10t/ha and quality is good. Yields varied across the farms and soil types, anywhere from 8t/ha to 12t/ha plus, and in general Kielder was my best-performing variety. It also topped the yield table for our demonstration plots, with Santiago second and Croft third.

The small area of Fuego spring beans was a pleasant surprise, topping 5t/ha, despite looking very poor all year. They were late to be established after the over-wintered stubble in the wet early spring, and struggled all year, but had excellent quality. I hope everyone is finished now, including those in later areas.

The oilseeds were planted in late August, and the modified drill worked well, applying diammonium phosphate fertiliser in a band near the seeds in 40cm rows. As usual here at Whittlesey, the lighter land was ploughed, and the other land lightly cultivated following deeper loosening where needed. The ploughed land generally yields better here, more than compensating for the cost and environmental impact, but is not an option on the heavier soils.

I am just starting to drill wheat. This coming year it will be mainly Santiago and Kielder, with KWS Willow in the late slot after potatoes and sugar beet. I am also trying a 10ha block of Hyvido hybrid winter barley. With the potential for a yield closer to wheat, more valuable straw, early harvest, and earlier opportunities for oilseed drilling, winter barley has returned to the rotation.

It’s good to see we now have a price agreement in place for the next sugar beet crop. I have to say that I am not excited at the agreed price, but with the unfortunate recent drop in other crop prices, I am satisfied enough to continue growing it. I’m also pleased that there is an agreement sorted in good time to finalise cropping plans.

Philip Bradshaw grows cereals, sugar beet and potatoes on 300ha of fenland and other soil types at Flegcroft Farm, Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire

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