Stop-start harvest

Having almost half his oilseed rape in store by the start of the week, John Barrett admitted he had been fortunate after dire weather hit much of the UK. But showers and a catchy forecast were making it a “start-stop-start” harvest.

“We’re teetering on the edge of OK,” he said. “But we’ve done 470 acres out of 1150.”

The land he manages from Hill House Farm, Hedenham, Suffolk, had received only 10mm (0.4in) of rain.

“We’ve been very lucky. We haven’t had the massive amounts they have had elsewhere.”

Combining of desiccated Castille and ES Astrid, mostly for harvest delivery, began on 15 July, a week earlier than last year. “Two years ago we didn’t start until 3 August.”

Clinic Ace (glyphosate) had worked well except on 24ha (60 acres) where rain fell too soon after spraying. “That’s still very green, so I plan to apply Reglone [diquat] on the headlands, assuming that’s allowed.”

Initial yields were low, he admitted, but uncompromised by switching to establishment by subsoiler and seedbox for 90% of the crop.

“We did have a couple of areas of crop failure, due to slugs, which we had to redrill with the Vaderstad.”

The first loads delivered off 112ha (278 acres) returned 3.2t/ha (1.3t/acre). “We normally hope to get 1.5t/acre.”

There seemed no significant difference between the two varieties.

“The lowest moisture was 7.8%, but we’ve been up to 13.6%, where we don’t normally want to be.”

The farm had only gas-fired assisted ambient air on-floor storage, he pointed out. “It will take a week to dry.”

Most of the rape had been sold for harvest movement, though some would be kept for September delivery to collect a useful premium. Another bonus was the lack of ruts from the untracked Lexion 580 30ft cut combine.

“I’m pleased so far,” said Mr Barrett. “Things have gone pretty well, but I’m disappointed with the yield.”

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