Farmer Focus: Only 10 good combining days this harvest

Harvest is finally complete and although it has dragged on, we have had one of our earlier finishes, particularly with the wheat harvest finishing on 2 September.

All in all, harvest lasted 70 days, with 131mm of rain in that period. By my recollection, there were only 10 really good combining days over that period, but the crops are now all safely in the shed.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

Disappointing yields

Overall harvest yields are in line with our five-year average. Although our spring crops looked well, they must have suffered in the dry conditions, as the spring oats only averaged 5.4t/ha and the peas only 3.6t/ha.

In addition, not being able to harvest them at the optimum time may have also contributed to their poor performance, with high crop losses.

Wheats averaged 8t/ha, which on the whole was disappointing. Although I was not expecting high yields, I was particularly disappointed with a 30ha block of Leeds that looked to have lots of potential and really contribute to the average. In contrast, the wheat that looked poor all year happened to do a lot better than expected.

As a result of this, Leeds and Diego have been dropped, to be replaced with Graham and Costello. A small area of Graham was grown last year and it was definitely our star performer, both in terms of yield and disease resistance. 

Oilseed rape

Oilseed rape drilling was completed a little latter than preferred, but after a slow start it is now all up and advancing through to the true-leaf stage. Once again we seemed to have escaped the worst of the cabbage stem flea beetle.

Cereal drilling is under way, but at the moment it is a bit of a stop-start affair, with ground conditions not the most favourable.

This year I have taken the decision to increase our seed rate to hopefully compensate for the amount of tillers we seem to be losing over the winter period.

Lastly, I must thank our small team for a great effort to get the harvest in. It hasn’t been easy, but we got there – now just one last push to get the drilling done. 

Jack Hopkins is the assistant farm manager on a 730 ha (1,804-acre) estate in North Herefordshire on predominantly silty clay loam soils. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, spring oats, peas and soft fruit, plus grassland which supports a flock of 1,000 ewes and 25 pedigree Hereford cattle.

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