Rain puts harvest back to normal

After an unusually early and rapid start to harvest in North Yorkshire, which saw Andrew Gloag’s winter barley averaging 9t/ha (3.7t/acre), nearly 10% more than last year, but oilseed rape “disappointing”, wheat combining has been much more intermittent.

However, rain, which broke the long dry spell and slowed progress of the two 25ft Lexion combines, has not been entirely unwelcome.

“It is doing as much good as bad,” said Mr Gloag as the week began with another catchy forecast.

“It has completely transformed our grass, which had been burned up like Australia. And it has been excellent for making stale seed-beds.

We’ve had a fantastic weed strike.”

Wheat combining at Busby House, Stokesley, does not usually begin until 18 August anyway, he added.

“Ten days ago I was feeling very comfortable.

Now that cushion has been chipped away, but we are still quite well forward.”

With just 28ha (70 acres) of wheat gathered last week, there were still 600ha (1480 acres) to cut by the weekend.

But yields had been “very encouraging”.

With rain forecast, he had decided to grab some potentially highest yielding first crop varieties that were leaning and at risk of shedding first.

“Claire’s done 4.2t/acre at 15.5% moisture and Alchemy 4.6, and I’m delighted with their specific weights, so far, of 78-81kg/hl.
“We haven’t done any second wheats yet, which might be a different story.

But, if anything, it looks as though we could do a bit better than last year, when our first wheats averaged 4.2t/acre.”

After useful savings on earlier crops – none of the barley needed drying – most wheat was being taken at 19-21.5% moisture.

But Mr Gloag said he was prepared to tackle anything under 24%.

“We’re well ahead on costs, as you are only talking about a bit of diesel.

And it’s false economy trying to save £1.50/t when you could lose £60-£80/acre by getting delayed with oilseed rape drilling.”

He suspected too little subsoiling might be to blame for this year’s relatively poor overall oilseed output.

“Our best was 2t/acre, but there were too many fields at only 24-25cwt/acre.”