Farmer Focus: New tracked combine tackles harvest

Down here in the South West and particularly in Cornwall, our combinable crops definitely seem to be behind those I have seen in my travels further east.

Even so, we have made a good start, with the winter barley harvest commencing some six days earlier than last year. Yields look good, with Cassia coming off at more than 8.5t/ha. The oilseed rape is taking longer to mature and I expect to finish the 100ha of barley, before getting into the rapeseed.

My hope is that the thundery weather we are experiencing doesn’t hang around for too long. Wheat, although now fast changing, is still some way off, as is the spring barley.

I have upgraded the combine for this season and moved from wheels to tracks to give additional output, but without increasing the overall width and compromising our ability to move around. The new tracked machine is noticeably more stable and climbs our slopes with virtually no slippage compared with the wheeled model.

Progress with daffodil bulb harvesting has been one of the most rapid in recent years. Good sunny weather has significantly reduced our drying costs. Our thoughts will soon be turning to hot water treating the planting stock prior to replanting, which is an essential operation to maintain high plant health standards.

It is always difficult to know at this stage exactly what area we will be replanting, as the bulb tonnage planted depends to some extent on our customers’ level of demand, which can change as the season progresses.

Therefore, a flexible approach is required to land allocation, as I only really know what I have in the ground once it is planted.

I have recently been privileged to be one of the judges for the 2014 Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year award. The three shortlisted candidates had very different businesses, but were all equally impressive in their own way.

Having been on the end of the judges’ questions last year, sitting on the other side of the fence this year was a completely different experience.

The discussions around management practice and deeper strategy were truly thought-provoking. I look forward to the winner being announced in October.

Jeremy Oatey manages 1,100ha of arable land near Plymouth in Cornwall and is the Farmers Weekly’s Arable Farmer of the Year. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, oats and beans as well as potatoes, onions, swedes and daffodils.

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