FARMER FOCUS: spring barley not worth the risk

There is one word that describes our cereal harvest in 2013. It is a four-letter word that begins with “c” and ends in “p”.

The only thing that has exceeded expectations was the amount of glorious sunshine we have had over the summer. The unfortunate effect of this though, was that most crops suffered from lack of moisture at a critical time, but especially our spring barley, yielding barely 5t/ha. That’s bad enough, but add in the fact that all of our nitrogen levels have been high, we have had a double blow.

Our spring barley potentially offers a reasonable return, but I have been checking my records. There has been no uplift in yield in all the years I have been growing the crop and now the risks associated with it not making the grade are too high. As a good friend of mine pointed out, the only risk the merchant takes is when he drives on the public highway to come and see me to get the contract signed.

Wheat has been a bit better. We have scraped in at the 7.5t/ha level, which I am told by my agronomist is a good result for the year. At least it has been easy combining and the land is in good fettle for drilling into.

I have had to bite on another very bitter pill. The 190hp tractor we bought for our 4m power harrow/drill combination was simply not “man enough” for the job. We were burning more fuel and doing less than we were with a 150hp tractor and 3m drill! I never thought I would see the day I would be buying a tractor rated at over 200hp.

The other day, as I was talking to my neighbour on the phone, I heard a very loud crack. I looked around to see that my old irrigator pump now had a tree camouflaging it. There is a line of trees about half a mile long and the only tree that decided to fall down landed on my pump. My neighbour now thinks I have Tourettes syndrome.

PS: Well done to all the farmers on the BBC’s recent Harvest programme.

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 is let for potatoes, and the farm also has cattle and sheep

More on this topic

Read more from Neil Thomson

Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

See more