Farmer Focus: This was the driest, wettest harvest ever

Someone on Twitter called harvest 2021 the “driest, wettest harvest ever”, and I couldn’t agree more.

August delivered no appreciable rain but drizzly mornings and very little sunshine, which meant that unless you were prepared to start harvesting at 1pm at 18% moisture, your combine would have stayed in the shed for most of the month.

I have always preferred having the choice of grain rotting in the store rather than rotting in the field, so we cracked on.

See also: 4 environmental options for arable growers in switch to ELMs

With daily opening and closing of ventilation holes in our grain stores and by keeping on top of the drying fans’ humidity controllers, everything in store is in check, and by 5 September, everything was under cover.

Yields have been disappointing, with specific weights low and relatively small ears of grain. A year with a wet winter, late frosts, a drought in the spring and a dull grain-filling period was never going to be great. However, prices are up.

Preparation for autumn sowing has gone well and all our green manures have been sown before spring cropping.

Our 2021 mix is buckwheat, mustard, phacelia with persian, and berseem clover. Green manures not only add fertility to soils, but also play a large part in smothering weeds, which is especially important in a low-till organic rotation.

They also give us an opportunity to feed our sheep over the winter and take some pressure off our new undersown leys.

By the time you read this, I hope to have started our autumn 2021 drilling campaign, with spelt, heritage wheat, a milling blend of modern wheats and another year of a winter bean/wheat bi-crop planned. 

After the past two wet autumns, it’s really unlikely that we’d get a third one, isn’t it? 

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