Good start to harvest… until rain stops play

Dry conditions allowed our eastern and western Barometer farmers to make a good start to their harvests until rain stopped play earlier this week. James Andrews reports


Persistent drizzle has brought Peter Sands’ two combines to a standstill, but an earlier dry spell allowed him to saw through 120ha of winter barley.

At the start of this week, he planned to start cutting Gerald oats at Ivy Dene, Brewood, Staffordshire, which were grown under contract for Morning Foods. “We were going to start a 50-acre patch on the lighter ground, but it started raining on Monday morning and it is wet today (Tuesday 27 July), too.”

He reckoned he would probably get back on to the oats by the end of the week, by which time some of the oilseed rape would also be ready. “The Castille and Ovation will come first, but the DK Cabernet is still a week to 10 days off.” Eiffel and Excalibur would be somewhere in between, he said.

A further 30ha of Gerald and 370ha of naked oats on heavier ground were still about a fortnight off, he said.

Cassia and Carat winter barley achieved “average” yields of 6-8t/ha. “On the heavier ground we probably made a mistake using minimum tillage instead of ploughing as it really seems to have suffered.” Cassia performed better than Carat in most situations, but both retained good bushel weights.

Since starting cutting barley on 18 July, there had been just one damp spell last Tuesday, which stopped the combines for two days, he said. “Most of the barley came in at 14.5-16.5% moisture so we’ve had to dry a lot of it – unfortunately my drier isn’t big enough, so we’ve had to tip some straight in the grainstore.”

His 35ft cut Claas Lexion 600 Terratrac and 25ft Lexion 570 were working in tandem to get the barley in before the rain, he said. “They’ve both been going well, but I’ll probably split them off on to different jobs now the barley’s cut.”

A 15t Frazer chaser bin, three tractor drivers and six trailers would accompany the Lexion 600 on the main cutting campaign, he said. “The 570 will be used for contract work and ground that is close enough to the grainstore for one driver to do the carting.”

Wheat was also turning quickly and could be ready in about 10 days, he said. “But we’ve got to get through 900 acres of rape before we think about moving on to that.”


Harvest had progressed rapidly at Manor Farm thanks to dry weather and a combine upgrade, but rain on Monday night paused proceedings, said eastern Barometer Edd Banks.

“We’ve had just enough to stop us going today, but I wouldn’t have thought it would be more than 1mm in total. The sugar beet is crying out for rain so it is probably no bad thing.”

Yields had suffered due to a four month spell with no significant rain, he said. “We cut 25ha of spring barley yesterday – I don’t know what the exact yield is as the meter hasn’t been calibrated, but if we get 4t/ha we’ll be lucky.”

Straw yields were so low he decided to switch on the straw chop rather than try to bale it. “Once you’d cut it and taken the ears off there was only about five inches left.”

The forecast was for clearer weather on Wednesday and he hoped to be back into the barley that evening. “We’ve got 40 acres to finish in one field and 70 acres on another – thankfully that looks like it will perform a bit better.”

He finished cutting 145ha Castille oilseed rape last Friday. Yields were variable but there was nothing lower than 3t/ha and nothing above 4t/ha, he said. “They would have been top performing crops had we had some rain a month ago.”

A 37ha block of high erucic Maplus oilseed rape was desiccated on Monday and wouldn’t be ready to cut for a couple of weeks, he said.

His new Case 9120 Axial Flow with 35ft cut and GPS was making light work of the harvest so far. “It’s upped capacity to 55-60t/hr from the 34t/hr we were getting from our 8010.” On average he was travelling between 6 and 8km/hr and cutting exactly 10.67m all the time.

On Sunday he cut a 36ha field of Cordaile between 1pm and 7pm, which averaged 7.5-8t/ha. “It was one of our cleanest fields, but as it is light fenland the lack of moisture affected yields – it was a really good crop, but it just didn’t have enough water.”

Moisture content ranged from 14.5-17% and all was collected by Camgrain. “We bucket brushed the field to get rid of the straw, tipped the trailers and they came to pick it up.” Yields would hopefully be better on the heavier ground, he added.

All rape ground had been cultivated to created a stale seed-bed for blackgrass control. “We’ve been over twice with the Vaderstad Topdown. Once deeper to open up the soil structure and then shallow to level the ground and get a good seed-bed.” This would be sprayed off with round up before planting wheat in September, he said.

“We also used our Cousins V-form cultivator on the headlands and tramlines. We’re moving to Controlled Traffic Farming once our RTK network (p55, 16 July) is up and running so we wanted to take out all the old compaction.”

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