Farmer Focus: Finding harvest staff is a real challenge

Across the country, harvest is now in full swing, although at the time of writing there isn’t much to report here as the combine has barely finished the headlands of the first field of Elgar oilseed rape.

However, it could well be the case that by the time you are reading this we have started cutting wheat; Skyfall is turning fast, and as far as hand rubbing a sample can tell, it looks promising.

Planning ahead and looking towards next harvest, Skyfall will be staying as the second wheat variety of choice, although there is still a debate regarding keeping Target on as a first wheat.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

We have some KWS Lili in one field, which could be a contender; only time will tell how it compares.

We have been using Agrii SoilQuest soil maps for variable-rate seeding for a couple of years, and are visually pleased with the results – although without yield mapping it’s hard/impossible to fully quantify the benefits.

Should we, therefore, look to tweak the maps so that soil zones are one variable, but also areas with high weed burdens – blackgrass in particular – are also variables, and increase seed rates on these areas?

It certainly can’t do any harm; in theory it should help and it would be easier to visually quantify in the short term until yield mapping is available to us, especially if we base rated a drill width through a couple of increased zones.

Cover crops are still gaining popularity and I’ve been busy establishing them into a range of conditions – from broadcasting into standing wheat pre-combining, to direct drilling into wheat that had been sprayed off due to blackgrass, along with the most usual direct into stubble.

I’m looking forward to seeing these progress, and the establishment of the following crop.

Seasonal harvest staff have proved harder to find this year than previous years, both for myself and a number of other people I have spoken too. Where have they all gone?

With an increasing number of students on agriculture courses at college and university, surely there should be an increasing number of students to apply for these positions?

I have a list of people still in need of an extra pair of hands, so if you’re looking please drop me an email at office@mattredmanag.co.uk.


Matt Redman operates a farming and agricultural contracting business, specialising in crop spraying, Avadex application and direct drilling, in Bedfordshire. He also grows cereals on a small area of tenancy land and was Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year in 2014.

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