Having sold three-quarters of his wheat forward before the drought, farm manager Andrew Pendry was hugely relieved when the yield meter rose above 10t/ha as the combine nosed into the first of the wheats.
Three weeks later, the reading has scarcely dropped below that level at Burden Bros’ Old Rides Farm, Isle of Sheppey, Kent, he says. “As the days have gone by my smile has got broader.”
By the start of this week the pair of John Deere T670i Hillmaster combines had cut about 80% of the 475ha of wheat under Mr Pendry’s care.
The 66ha of Gallant averaged 10.2t/ha of good quality grain – 13.4% protein, 280 Hagberg and a specific weight of 80kg/hl. About 33ha of Kingdom produced 10.8t/ha, again with good quality, while 130ha of the farm’s main variety, group 3 Invicta, has notched up 11.4t/ha off heavy London clay.
“We’ve not cut the lighter land yet, but judging how Gallant performed I’m hopeful yields won’t dip too far,” he says.
Every grain so far will make export specification, the farm’s major market. Given that forward sales range from £160 to £205/t, this season’s wheat harvest coupled with a strong oilseed rape average of 4.6t/ha should certainly help the bottom line.
The farm’s new Mecmar 35 tonne drier remains unused. “Apart from a small tonnage we are blowing on-floor, all the wheat came in under 15% moisture.”
Despite looking very short after the drought, Mascani oats also delivered, giving 9t/ha.
Although rain remained in short supply, a cloudy, cooler June helped all crops recover after the prolonged dry spell. Good drilling management also supported yields, he believes.
“We take great care to produce the best seed-beds and our Sumo Versadrill almost precision drills seed. And we have a team of guys who understand what we are trying to achieve.”
Very low disease pressure was another factor. “We kept rates up through to flag leaf, but omitted the T3. It was a bit of a gamble, but I don’t think it would have added any more yield this season.”
Oilseed rape sowing is now underway, with Flash being drilled at 2.1kg/ha after two passes with the Simba Cultipress/Xpress combination. “That rate gives us about 30-35 seeds/sq m, which in perfect seed-beds will be plenty.”
Crop yields are better than Peter Sands dared hope for after the dry spring at Ivy Dene, Brewood, Staffordshire.
About 40% of the farm’s 710ha of wheat have now been cut, and output so far suggests yields will average somewhere between 8.5-10t/ha, about 0.5t/ha up on the farm’s three-year average.
With oilseed rape also performing better than expected, Mr Sands is somewhat bemused.
“I don’t know why we are seeing these sorts of results. We’ve not changed our management – we did treat the wheat with Aviator Xpro at flag leaf this year, but that about the only difference.”
The farm’s 380ha of oilseed rape, including Cubic, Sesame, Eiffel and DK Cabernet, delivered 4.5-4.7t/ha.
“There was nothing to choose between the varieties yield-wise,” says Mr Sands. “They went into a good seed-bed and soils stayed reasonably loose throughout the winter, so that probably set them up for the spring.”
Wheat followed on the end of the first week of August. A new Claas Lexion 770 and a four-year-old Lexion 570 made short work of the first 280ha, mostly Grafton, clearing it in a week despite showers.
Half was grown on sandy loam, giving 8.9t/ha. The rest on heavier clay loam yielded just over 11t/ha, helped by specific weights of 80kg/hl. All weights are cleaned and dried.
“That’s a record for us – we’ve never got anything near that before,” says Mr Sands. His 40ha of JB Diego as a second wheat yielded 10t/ha on light land, while blocks of Humber and Oakley look promising.
Grain has been coming in at 17-19%, keeping the farm’s 20t/hour continuous grain drier busy.
“It’s not really big enough now – we have a shed where we can stockpile grain, but it would be nice to see moistures coming down a bit,” he says.
“We are on top of the job – nothing is spoiling, but we need to be clearing ground so we can keep drilling oilseed rape.”
About 40ha of Cubic has been sown so far behind a Knight C-type cultivator and press. Standing wheat fields destined for the crop will now be targeted as a priority.