Video: Harvest 2022 – 750ha wheat area cut in record time for Bucks farm

A Buckinghamshire family farming partnership has finished its earliest ever wheat harvest at Kensham Farms in the Chiltern Hills.

Charlie Edgley, managing partner at Kensham, said the arrival of a new John Deere S790 combine and the extended dry spell enabled harvest to be wrapped up on Thursday 11 August – more than two weeks earlier than normal.

See also: Harvest 2022: Hampshire wheat shows high yield despite low protein

“It’s been a below-average harvest for us, but we completed this harvest in 200 hours on the combine, which is unheard of, really,” he said. “Typically, it has been 260 to 290 hours, so we haven’t used as much fuel.

“From the day we started harvesting wheat, we have had one day off. Other than that, we’ve been harvesting every day, which is unprecedented.”

Mr Edgley credited the early finish to the dry conditions and a very good combine operator, Paul Rogers, a former civil engineer.

Paul, 53, took over driving the combine from his father, Nigel Rogers, who had combined every harvest at Kensham Farm from 1962 up to 2018.

Wheat performance

This year, the farm grew 750ha of wheat, including three different winter wheat varieties, Illustrious, Zyatt and Skyfall, and one spring variety, Mulika.

Illustrious performed best, averaging 7.61t/ha and ranging from 5.4-9.4t/ha.

Zyatt averaged 7.5t/ha, with a top yield of 9.3t/ha and a low of 5.6t/ha. Skyfall averaged 7.29t/ha, ranging from 6.08t/ha to 8.66t/ha.

Mr Edgley said the Mulika spring wheat – some of which was planted in the late autumn – struggled due to dry conditions since drilling and averaged just 5.6t/ha.

The farm’s 20-year wheat yields average is about 8t/ha, and its best is 9.6t/ha.

“It’s been a shorter growing season and it’s been very dry, so the lower average yields are no big surprise,” said Mr Edgley.

“We have got very variable soil types and we have got big variation in cultivations as well. We do shallow cultivations, direct drilling, and we drill into cover crops as well.

Man stands on the top step of a combine

Tan Dhesi, the MP for Slough, visited Kensham Farms during the harvest © Alex Nelms

“There is no obvious correlation between yield and cultivation technique. Generally, the chalks haven’t done as well as the heavier clays. Our best yielding field was ploughed and planted in September.”

Specific weights have been “quite remarkable” – most have been between 83-84kg/hl, with none below 80.

“I had two samples tested early on and the hagbergs were all good. The protein on the Skyfall was just about OK. It was about 12.95%. But the Zyatt was just under 12%, so very poor,” Mr Edgley said.

The Zyatt, Illustrious and Skyfall is all sold to Openfield and it can be blended.

MPs visit farm

On two separate occasions during harvest, two local politicians – Steve Baker, the Conservative MP for Wycombe, and Tan Dhesi, the Labour MP for Slough – were welcomed to the 947ha farm, near High Wycombe, to learn first-hand about the importance of food production to the country.

Two men hold a book in front of a combine

Steve Baker (left), MP for Wycombe, with first-time author Bryan Edgley (see below) © Alex Nelms

Alex Nelms, NFU Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire county chair and a partner at Kensham Farms, said: “We had a discussion around the dining room table about the current state of agriculture, government policy and the economics.

“We talked a lot about price volatility, our diversification income, where we have converted former chicken sheds into commercial lets, solar panels and all these other enterprises that underpin the rollercoaster that is arable farming.

“We took them out for a combine ride. They were both very well received and were in listening mode.”

  • Charlie Edgley’s father, Bryan Edgley, has written his first book at the age of 90. The Changing Pattern of Farming – 1912 to 2020 has been published and will be available to buy in all good bookstores from 1 October 2022.

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