The oilseed rape harvest at one Kent farm was drawing to a close on the second hottest day ever in Great Britain, with temperatures measuring 35 degrees Celsius at midday at Nonington Farms, near Dover.
After starting the OSR harvest two weeks ago, the final 80ha of 300ha was due to be finished this week, before moving onto the winter wheat harvest in around four days’ time.
Farm director James Loder-Symonds said lessons had been learnt from the many combine fires that occurred due to last summer’s drought.
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Every machine on the farm now carries a fire extinguisher and a cultivator is kept near the combine at all times, with the combine blown through every morning, although the risk of fire will be higher when the team starts on the wheat next week.
Keeping the team hydrated had also been important this year, Mr Loder-Symonds said.
While the farm has experienced a few intermittent showers over the last week, these have done little to increase the moisture of the OSR crop, with moisture measuring 6.4% at midday after dropping from 8% when the combine started in the morning.
Luckily, Mr Loder-Symonds has been able to blend the crop in store to bring moisture up to 7%.
Although cabbage stem flea beetle has yet to become as much of an issue in Kent as it already is further North, allowing Mr Loder-Symonds to yield an average of around 4t/ha on the better land, this coming season he is planning on taking proactive measures to keep the flea beetle under control.
“We are planning on trying companion cropping with the OSR this coming season, drilling it with 2kg/ha of berseem clover in the hope the beetle will eat that instead of the rapeseed.
“We want to use cultural controls as well as relying on chemicals as resistance is building and registration is becoming more difficult.
“We have lengthened the rotation to one in five, with has had a notable 0.3-0.4t/ha affect on our yields,” he says.
The farm’s rotation now consists of winter wheat, barley, OSR, 20ha of winter beans which are being grown on contract for fish food through grain marketeer Frontier, spring beans and spring naked oats.
The OSR will be established in early August if conditions are right, with establishment moving away from a system based on cultivating and then using a drill in favour of broadcasting the seed between the packer roller and the discs.
Mr Loder-Symonds hopes that an increased focus on sustainability and a wider rotation will enable the farm to achieve a LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) Marque Accreditation which will add a premium of £15/t on to his OSR crops in the future.
He is also looking to trial pressing his own oil locally in the future.