Farmer Focus: Barley variety switch pays off

As I write this I am feeling incredibly grateful for the marvellous wet day we had yesterday.

For the second time this year everything in our part of Cornwall had gone very dry.

By the end of May I was feeling uncomfortable, but rain in early June set us up for a while.

That has now been used up, hence the reason for my weather appreciation.

See also: The best way to manage stubbles after harvest

I’m usually pretty cynical of BBC weather forecasts as I find they overdo the risk, and then for the rain to not quite deliver.

However, this time it happened as predicted. It won’t stop me from additionally subscribing to another independent weather prediction service though.

Harvest in its many forms has kicked off. We made a good quantity of hay early on and then because the weather was holding made some more.

I can’t think it is going to be worth much this winter as so much has been made locally.

Nature, as we have seen in recent years, has a habit of correcting the balance.

Small bulbs

Daffodil bulb harvest is continuing at pace. The bulb yield of our two-year varieties is disappointingly poor, with a high proportion of the smaller sizes.

This is really because they experienced such a poor growing season last year, with a cold late spring followed by a long dry summer.

The upside, as someone recently pointed out to me, is that smaller yields do at least mean that it won’t take so long to get the job done!

The combines have rolled through the winter barley, which has been a little variable with some good yields and some fairly average.

The variation seems to be down to location and land quality. We started to phase out Tower last autumn as our feed variety of choice, in favour of Surge.

This decision seems to been the right one. The Maris Otter malting barley has also been cut and looks to be satisfactory, however, I await the germination results on the test samples sent away as that will be key to the financial return.

Back to the weather forecast and it seems we’ll be back pumping irrigation water within a few days.

Here’s to a safe and successful harvest.


Jeremy Oatey manages 1,200ha of arable land near Plymouth in Cornwall and is 2013 Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year. Cropping includes wheat, barley, OSR, oats, beans, potatoes, onions, swedes and daffodils.