Hunt for good staff pays dividends

Rain stopping play on Saturday evening, with about 60% of the Atkinson family’s wheat cut and in store, was welcome for the team at Rippingale, Lincolnshire.

“I just hope it knows when to stop, as some of the wheat has started to go down,” said Ben Atkinson on Monday.

Time spent sourcing good staff to smooth the harvest workload had again paid dividends, he stressed.

“We are lucky with David, Richard and Dariusz doing their third and fourth seasons and new boys Nick and Eugene quickly grasping the ropes.

“I think most wanted an early night to catch up on some much needed sleep and, for the Irish and Polish members, on a little Guinness, I imagine.

Looking at some of them this morning, though, I think they may have caught up rather too well!”

After a disappointing overall result with winter oilseed rape – Castille, Catalina and Pollen together averaging only 3.5t/ha (1.4t/acre) – his wheat had been much more encouraging.

“We have about 4000 acres, all for feed, with Welford and Richmond as first wheats and a bit of second-crop Einstein.

“It’s so far so good in terms of yield and quality, with Welford probably just having the edge.

It does consistently well for us and we will probably grow it again.”

Average yield through the farm’s two 30ft cut combines, a Lexion 580 and MF Cerea, was about 5% up on last year’s 9.5t/ha (3.8t/acre).

“We’ve had lots around 10t/ha with specific weights of 78-80kg/hl.

We have had to do very little drying, but looking from the office window that could soon change.”

Given reports from other parts of Europe suggesting yields had suffered from drought, he was in no rush to sell.

“We always sell some forward, but the advice I’m getting is to hang on. So I’m being a bit braver this year.”

After the poor oilseed rape result, not unexpected after establishment and slug problems, a concerted improvement effort baling all straw on land going into the crop was under way.

“We budget for 4.5t/ha and aim for 5. Growing rape was a lot easier when we could burn straw,” said Mr Atkinson.