Farmer Focus: No right answer on desiccation this year

After being on holiday last year when the oilseed rape harvest started, I was determined not to be away again, so with a return date of 14 July I felt safe.

Harvest duly kicked off on 12 July, which is the earliest I can remember, in some grass seed with a contractor’s stripper header.

The next day, following my swift drive home, we went into the winter barley, which came in at a little over 11% moisture.

See also: Wheat grower’s 6-point plan to hitting top milling grade

Considering the moisture levels, and that it was on light land in a dry year, the output –while not headline-grabbing – was reasonable.

Record Hagberg

We are on the verge of starting a very early wheat harvest and many locally already have, with some Hagberg scores approaching a record 500.

If you had suggested to me previously that we would be combining at 6.30am I would have thought you were completely daft.

However, that was exactly what we were doing last week so the oilseed rape seed didn’t come off too dry to avoid excessive shattering losses.

Even then it was 8% moisture, but that was a lot better than the 5% it got down to in the afternoon.

We then moved into another variety that had not been sprayed off and had some pretty green stems.

However, with the seed still dry and thunderstorms forecast, we pressed on. This showed there may be no right answer as far as desiccating is concerned – it is a tricky year and the yield was disappointing after last year’s highs.

Just before my pre-harvest holiday I was lucky enough to attend the Niab director’s day in Cambridge on the theme of partnerships.

I was most encouraged to hear about the new Cambridge Centre of Crop Sciences, which is a collaboration between Niab and Cambridge University.

It’s great that one of the country’s leading universities is getting back into agriculture, particularly with a partner focused on passing knowledge direct to farmers.