Farmer Focus: A peek at my harvest diary from 1987

What a summer; at the time of writing (4 September) we still have 100ha of beans to harvest.

High yields, laid crops and desperately frustrating weather have literally left us with a stop-start campaign, then when we do get going machinery issues have halted progress with a frustrating regularity.

I don’t know if its just my age or that I’m turning into a grumpy old man, but I find myself complaining about the reliability of kit all the time.

See also: Kent wheat grower switches varieties to lift yields

Dealer backup has been superb on the whole, from both B&B Tractors and Farmstar, who look after our key bits of equipment.

Looking back

I’ve always kept a diary and out of curiosity I picked up one from my early years, 1987 to be precise, and read my harvest notes.

Interestingly, we finished beans on 25 September, purely due to the weather.

However, my machinery notes read that our Case International 1255 and MB-Trac 1000 had completed harvest, cultivations and the drilling campaigns with only servicing required, no breakdowns at all.

The combine had no breakdowns and neither did our old Sanderson forklift with 10,000 hours on the clock, having loaded and unloaded our stores several times.

I knew it, the good old days were better. Then I looked at the areas we cut – 202ha of mixed cropping over 60 days.

Today we are trying to do six times as much work with the same numbers of staff and machines, albeit bigger, over 40 days, no wonder machines breakdown because the pressure is constant.

OSR volunteers

I deliberated long and hard over whether to grow oilseed rape again and decided against it, rightly or wrongly.

Yesterday I went field walking and ended up in a field of OSR stubble, only to find volunteers in perfect condition, no evidence of cabbage stem flea beetle damage anywhere.

Not a single plant with shot holes, typical.

Then I remembered the words of a very wise man who sadly passed away earlier this year, don’t farm next year’s crops based on last year’s problems, very wise words Dr Green.


Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Farming Company. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.