Farmer Focus: Neil Thomson has seen combines take a hammering

Neil Thomson farms 607ha in partnership with his father and brother from Caverton Mill, Kelso on the Scottish Borders, growing combinable crops and brassicas. Some of the mainly medium loam and is let for potatoes, and the QMS “Monitor Farm” also has cattle and sheep

Normally I have time to ruminate over my articles’ content, but this month it’s been very different. With a respite in the weather, the nose has been to the grindstone, every waking hour filled with things needing to be done. Time waits for no man.

In the Borders, the 2008 harvest will go down as one we’d all prefer to forget. We finished wheat on 27 September, ending a frantic week starting at 26% moisture. Fortunately, by the end it had dropped to about 17%.

Should we have waited? I don’t think so, or there would still be crop out there. But with wheat at less than £100/t and having burnt about 14 litres of diesel per tonne drying the stuff, you begin to ask the question.

Combines, no matter what make, have taken a hammering, with most suffering in the battle and armies of engineers attending the wounded. Being pulled backwards from a bog for the umpteenth time has, you would believe, stretched some machines.

Instead of hiring just one to help our group, we had to resort to yet another of yet another brand. (See last month’s article “No emergency stops required”.)

Crop quality and yield have been hard hit. Bushel weights are low, with much grain pre-germinated. Robigus looks worst, but no variety fared particularly well, unless you were lucky to get some off before the deluge.

Newly-sown oilseed rape crops are variable. Some fields look like the Somme, and their crops will certainly test that theory that our seed rates are too high – some plants look pretty lonely at the moment.

Re-reading this, I realise it might almost bring a tear to a glass eye, but I’m not “sexing” it up. That’s how it is. Must go – too much to do.

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