Will Howe feels like a spare part this harvest

Last year I was extolling the virtues of a heavy land farm in the drought. Well, this year the monsoon conditions of late spring and early summer have left me coveting some of my neighbour’s lighter land.

The oilseed rape on the heavier land seems to have given up after three months of saturated soils, which has made harvesting easy, as there are no green stems. And yet I write this waiting for the rape grown on my few acres of light land to become fit.

The main concern has been the imprint left by the combine, despite being equipped with terra tyres and the trailers being kept on tramlines. The thought of dragging the tillage train or plough out of the nettles fills me with horror. But after some investigation with a humble spade, my agronomist and I have decided to leave the soil alone, fearing any remedial work may do more damage. We feel it is more important to get the volunteers to grow to dry and condition the soil.

I must confess to feeling a bit of a spare part so far this harvest. I am the self-elected drier/yard man for the rape and then I drive the Challenger later in the season. The new drier and handling system is a series of touch screens and then looks after itself, and the Challenger has nothing to do yet, thanks to the latest arable fashion, direct drilling.

When I can hear the neighbouring farm’s Quadtracs growling in to the night, I really do feel I ought to be doing something in the field. Although that feeling quickly passes when you see a jumbo-sized diesel bowser going past for the umpteenth time. Instead I’m watching the British cyclists whizzing around the giant pringle-shaped stadium at speeds a Vespa can only dream of and there is a cold beer in the fridge.

Will Howe farms 384ha of medium to heavy land at Ewerby Thorpe Farm, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire, growing wheat, oilseed rape and winter beans.

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