Slow harvest on Barometer farms

Harvest on Farmers Weekly eastern and northern Barometer farms was far from over earlier this week. Andrew Blake reports

Despite starting on winter barley on 8 July Chris Moore (pictured) was less than half-way through his combining near Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire; and Ian Bird near Hartlepool had cut only his winter barley – 23ha of Saffron.

“It’s been an utter stop-start ever since we began,” said Mr Moore. “To spend five to six weeks cutting 300 acres is pathetic.”

First off were Carat and a small area of Volume barleys, some being glyphosated to hasten the process and free land for disposing of beetroot waste, he explained.

“Altogether we got 680t off 200 acres with the Volume definitely outyielding the Carat but by no more than 10%. It all had to be dried, but nothing was above 17%.

“The yield’s wasn’t desperate but the price – I sold it all for £80/t – was a disaster. But then again it’s now only £72. I had a chance to sell forward, but I’m being very cautious with the markets so volatile – I don’t want to sell something I haven’t got. At least last year our wheat did 4/5t/acre and the price was in three figures.”

Unlike other farms in the area, some of which Mr Moore said had left oilseed rape to cut wheat, all his first-time crop had been harvested.

“We had 100 acres, all Excalibur, which gave us 165t; but it was very variable because of difficult establishment. But it was on virgin land and I think some must have done over 2t/acre.”

All had left the farm for a commercial store to await selling after November at his call.

“I’m not too disappointed with how it’s done and at £200/t it will just about have wiped its feet. But like everyone else we spent far too much on it with the price of fertiliser as it was.”

With 162ha of winter wheat and 50ha of Tipple spring barley for feed all ready for the MF7274 combine he was itching to get on. “We’ve only cut 30 acres of Cordiale.”

The yield, just 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre), was no surprise. “It was a second wheat we muddled in in mid-September just to get on. It had Latitude but take-all still affected it. It went very white in the hot spell when temperatures got up to 30C.”

He hoped for much more from his remaining wheats – provided the weather soon turned for the better. “Six to seven good days should wrap it up.”

Ian Bird’s new ex-demo John Deere C670i combine, bought to try to avoid a repeat of last year’s breakdowns, had so far tackled only winter barley.

His 23ha of Saffron was cut on 31 July, yielding just 6.2t/ha. But with few wheats yet ripe he remained philosophical. “If it hadn’t rained on Sunday there were 30 acres of Cordiale that we might have had. But we don’t normally start wheat up here until 20 August, and some’s still not ready for Roundup.”

After 4in of rain in 24 hours on 17 July which flattened a field of Glasgow and much of his spring rape, the barley’s removal had allowed him to get on with drilling winter oilseed rape that never got sown last year.

“Compared with last year it’s 200% better – at least the ground’s quite dry.”

Adjustments to the sowing rate for his over-yeared Marcant and Maplus rape seed would clearly be required after he failed to get it taken back by the supplier. “The germination’s only 65-70%,” he explained.

Last year’s order had been for 80ha or 200 acres. “Now it looks as though we shall use it up on about 120 acres. I might have had some more, but the price isn’t very tempting.”

Looking ahead the large chunk of spring crops forced upon him by last autumn’s dire sowing conditions – Ritz rape, Tipple barley and Fuego beans – appeared surprisingly promising.

“They look a lot better than I thought. In the end, after the dry early spring they got moisture and a decent growing season.”