Farmer Focus: A harvest of highs and extreme lows

So far, as ever, it’s been a harvest of highs and lows. The only problem is the lows have been very low, so I’m glad we didn’t have much oilseed rape or winter beans.

However, results from the chalk are much better and have made the sand look like the proverbial cheese.

Never has the old adage that poor land is expensive and good land cheap been more relevant.

See also: Harvest 2020: Variable yields and 6-row barleys fall short

I’ve known my little patch of OSR wouldn’t do much for some time, but I thought some of the crops around looked good, but as I hear of more and more poor results, my planned area for next harvest has diminished to one trials field.

We have baled more straw this year, mainly for my brother’s animals as he struggles with lack of grass due to the dryness, and we should get much of it back once processed by his cattle.

Needless to say the sandy field, that was next to the dairy we had until 2001, used to yield an awful lot more when it had manure every year.

Other amendments are longer lasting – in the same field this year the lines of long lost ditches that were around an Iron Age fort site have shown up clearly as taller and lusher growth.

The relaxing of the greening rules for next year will help in some ways. We grow a lot of cover crops anyway, and have used some as Environmental Focus Areas, but have always been annoyed at the rules around species allowed in the mix and prescriptive dates of establishment and destruction.

No doubt this was well-intentioned but the more rules that exist the more innovation is stifled.

As far as the three-crop rule goes, I’m not too bothered, as we have eight this year. However, it makes so much sense for friends with contract farming agreements on various smallish holdings that have been making many more diesel-burning trips.

Andy Barr farms 630ha on a mixed family farm in mid-Kent, including 430ha mainly of winter wheat, oilseed rape and spring barley. The rest is taken up by an OELS scheme and grazing for 500 Romney ewes and 40 Sussex cattle.



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