Oilseed rape harvest is under way in Hampshire with the first crops carted in thanks to a break in the catchy weather.
Overnight drizzle frustrated the harvest hopes of many growers across the south of England on Thursday morning (16 July).
But the leaden skies cleared and the sun came out in the afternoon at Stakes Farm in Upham, Southampton, Hampshire, allowing the first rape crops to be cut.
For this harvest season, George Rees Farming has invested in a £250,000 John Deere T670 Hillmaster combine harvester with a 30ft rape extension header.
The new combine was tried for the first time, in a 12ha field of Palmedor rape on Thursday afternoon.
Newly trained combine driver David Miles was at the controls and Tim Hunt, managing director of R Hunt (Agricultural Engineers), which deals mainly in John Deere machinery, was on hand to help calibrate the machine’s settings.
The Palmedor crop was yielding at 3.6t/ha (1.5t/acre) and the seed was coming off between 11-13% moisture on average, so it will be dried in store.
“It’s our biggest straw auger combine. It is perhaps John Deere’s most popular combine,” said Mr Hunt.
“It drives in perfect straight lines. Also, everything that is going on in this cab at the moment can be reported back to a central server.”
The combine has installed the JD Link remote-monitoring system, which allows the owner to log in on an iPad/iPhone and view live data from the cab.
It pinpoints the exact location of the combine, yields, moisture, average engine speed, output and efficiency and much more.
Mr Hunt said the ultimate aim of the central server was to collect information from crops harvested in different locations and conditions and use it to inform harvesting in areas that have performed less well.
Mr Miles said he was impressed by how the machine was performing in the field.
“The cab and the driver environment and the auto direction, not having to steer are big pluses with this model,” he said.
Mr Miles also thanked his boss for allow him to train to do the combining this season.
“I mainly do the crop spraying, but I have done a bit of relief combine work over the last three to four seasons, including in Australia,” he said.
“My boss showed a lot of faith in me.
“Most other industries wouldn’t take a punt and let you try a very expensive machine like this.”
Compared with 2014, the rape harvest started a week later at Stakes Farm this year.
“This time last year we had finished cutting rape. It’s a late season,” said Mr Miles.
“The crop never had any good heat in the spring.
“It also did suffer in the beginning due to the ban on neonicotinoid seed treatment.”
In total, there are 325ha (800 acres) of rape to harvest at the farm, which, depending on the weather, should take no more than a week.
The wheat harvest on the farm is about two weeks away.
George Rees Farming facts
- Based in Upham, Southampton, Hampshire
- 1,600ha (3,950 acres) of combinable crops, including winter oilseed rape, winter/spring barley, winter beans and grass for seed
- 400-cow dairy herd and up to 1,500 pigs