Oldies are the best at Deer Park Farm

Martin Howlett is thankful to have his antiquated combine at Deer Park Farm, Callington, Cornwall, as he’s been able to pick days to harvest between the showers.

“It’s been a frustrating time – we decided to get on with hay making and silaging in the dry weather at the end of July, so didn’t start combining winter barley until about three weeks ago.

“But at least I’ve had my own combine – albeit an old one – as I’ve been able to choose the best days to get on. The first fields came off at 16% moisture, but the rest have been down at 11-12%.”

Florentine winter barley did reasonably well, at 5.3t/ha, with Suzuka struggling to reach 5t/ha.

“Normally we’d do 6.2t/ha, but I know where the other 1.2t/ha is – it’s lying on the ground because the heads had dropped and I couldn’t pick them all up with the combine. But the grain we have got is nice and plump.”

Mascani winter oats had lodged at knee-height, and were yielding about average at 6.2t/ha. “Straw yields haven’t been so good – the barley was crumpling up so we’ve big baled it instead.

“And although the combine was alright, we’ve made a hell of a mess of the fields picking the straw up because it’s been so wet.”

Although Mr Howlett didn’t grow winter wheat, many fields in the area were starting to grow out in the ear, he said. “Many people have barely touched their wheat yet.”

After finishing off the oats he would have to wait a week or so for the winter beans. “They are at least two weeks behind normal.

“We tried to save them with extra fungicide, but there are hardly any pods on them, because in the spring and early summer the insects weren’t flying so there was very little pollination.”

With only four or five pods per plant against a more normal 12, yield prospects were appalling, he added.

And maize did not look much better. “We’ve spent everything we can on it to make it grow, but without sun it won’t grow.”

Although it was very short, it was now starting to produce cobs, and eyespot pressure could impact on cob quality.

“The cobs are going to be very low, so the badgers are going to go in and have a field day. Yields even before that will be 50% down, and quality is likely to be affected, too.

“It’s going to be the worst maize we’ve ever had, and it’s cost us a lot to grow it. Some people have decided to plough it back in, it’s so bad.”

However, with a better forecast into next week, he was trying to remain optimistic. “Summer starts tomorrow – all is not yet lost.”

Crop: Winter barley
Variety: Suzuka
Area: 6.5ha
Yield: 5t/ha

Variety: Florentine
Area: 6ha
Yield: 5.3t/ha

Crop: Winter oats
Variety: Mascani
Area: 2ha
Yield: 6.2t/ha

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