Farmer Focus: Rain shortage could foil bumper harvest

We are now under starter’s orders, just waiting for the rain to pass. I ordered the wet weather for earlier in the spring, but it has only now decided to arrive, delayed no doubt by the striking French.

The plus side is that the moisture will help the post-harvest cover crop drilling get off to a good start, provided the rain knows when to stop.

As I have always been a farmer who desired newer, bigger and shinier machinery to make it look to all my passing neighbours as if I was making loads of money, there is something particularly gratifying about not owning the newest machines in the parish.

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You may have deduced that I am a bit of a technophobe, but I still fail to see what exhaust gas recirculation and a wiring loom the size of a 500kVA power cable adds to the performance of a tractor lugging a lump of metal up a field.

That aside, I am still a little concerned about the performance of tracks in a direct-drilling situation, as they do seem harsher on the soil, even in a straight line, compared with tyres.

However, the crawler will be away contract drilling oilseed rape this summer, so the cover crop establishment with the 8m seedhawk will fall to the 7,000-hour dulled John Deere 6920.

Time will tell if it can pull the tyre press behind as well. Perhaps this will provide an opportunity to demo a new tractor or two.

First priority will be to see how much I can reduce the power requirement of the farm, and second to stop the neighbours thinking I am about to go under.

I would like to say that it looks like being a bumper harvest this year, but as we have had only 55% of our average annual rainfall to date, I fear it is unlikely.

The positives are that the new minimal soil disturbance cultivation/drilling system has minimised the cracking of the soil.

Having dug some soil pits, the land all looks in good enough heart to put in a cover and then a cash crop at some subsequent date, depending on the blackgrass pressure – most likely next year.


Will Howe farms 384ha of medium to heavy land at Ewerby Thorpe Farm, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire, growing wheat, oilseed rape and winter beans.