Farmer Focus: Borage crop delivers highest margin of 2020

Harvest 2020 is now behind us, with the final crop, borage, safely in. It was not without its problems to put through the combine, mainly because it had 20mm of rain on it after swathing and that made it rather slimy under the rows.

Hew was extremely patient, though, and kept taking an exploratory nibble at it until the day it fed in nicely.

It fell to me to get the moisture down to below 9% from 20% using our Svegma drier. It is not a job I relish; it must be done slowly and gently, and the dust is something else. I can tell you that the black, fibrous debris gets everywhere, and when it is down your bra, it is really uncomfortable.

See also: Why whole-field stewardship has a place in arable rotations

Borage growing is not for the faint-hearted, but despite its drawbacks, it will be our best gross margin this year, and it does make an excellent entry for direct-drilled wheat. We are fortunate and grateful to have a contract with Fairking and hope to continue with it.

We currently have Farm Services doing drainage work in near-perfect, dry conditions in a field that was drained with the benefit of a grant back in the 1960s when clinker back-fill was deemed acceptable by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Bit of a mistake in my view – stone is superior because it does not disintegrate in the way clinker has.

The clay tile drains of that era have not stood up to the increased weight of machinery over the years either. The huge, trenchless machine is a sight to behold as it forges its way through our London clay soils, guided by GPS, with perforated plastic pipe sliding in and plenty of stone back-fill.

We plan to work our way around the farm bit by bit, getting all those old drainage schemes replaced. It is a huge investment, but I am sure we will see the payback in yield increases and soil health benefits.

I’m off to Islay now with husband Charlie; looking forward to walking, fishing and golf in stunning Scottish scenery. Big question is, will Hew have the drill out on our return at the end of September?

NOVEMBER
3

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