James Hosking farms 516ha
(1275 acres) with his
parents and brother at
Truro, Cornwall. Land is
equally split between share
farming, various FBTs and a
tenancy. Crops include
wheat, oats, barley and
daffodils, alongside sheep
and cattle enterprises
WE finished combining the wheat on Bank Holiday Monday just as the heavens opened, which was a great relief.
Since then, the only field work possible has been hedge trimming. The ground is too wet for autumn cultivations, and more importantly for us, to plant daffodil bulbs.
Linseed and flax have been desiccated and now need a decent spell of weather for combining. Spring oilseed rape is still rather green and looks like it will not be ready until the end of the month.
Reflecting on the harvest to date, fine weather in August gave the combine and drier a relatively easy run. Yields have not been as poor as I feared, although the bushel weight of oats and wheat is lower than normal. Our earliest drilled wheat suffered most, probably due to a combination of take-all, eyespot and foliar disease, but November drilled crops compensated for this, yielding exceptionally well.
Most of the bulbs have now been graded and sold, and I hope we have kept enough back for our own barn shop needs. The next couple of months is the main retail selling period.
Since first hearing about an anti-BYDV seed dressing, I have been looking forward to its introduction. But reading FW last week I see Bayer have wheeled out the seemingly standard new product Press release saying that it is "virtually sold out".
Looking at the economics, conventional sprays cost almost nothing. Insecticide is cheap and goes on with the herbicide, and if we do need to go again, it really only costs the extra diesel. The only risk is the weather allowing us to get on. So despite being in a high risk area for virus, it is a blanket insurance policy we will not take out. Instead, we will try some on winter barley, and stick with tried and tested methods elsewhere. A large rise in the seed bill is something we can do without at the moment. *
Teddy Maufe farms 407ha
(1000 acres) as the tenant of Branthill Farm, part of
the Holkham Estate, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. Sugar
beet lies at the heart of the
rotation, with other crops
including winter barley,
wheat and oats, spring
barley and triticale
GOOD weather promised for the August Bank holiday weekend failed to materialise until the Monday, when we cut 18ha (45 acres) of wheat at 19% moisture, leaving just 4ha (10 acres).
In light of a deteriorating weather forecast, we finally harvested this on Sept 4, at 24% moisture, pressing our two-year-old Kentra grain drier into action in real earnest for the first time. It steamed its way through, taking out 6% at 6 t/hr on the first pass.
This year no wheat was cut under 18%, due to frustratingly late ripening. A combination of a sunless, grey July and the new strobilurin fungicides are to blame I suspect. But the upside of this is a disease-free, non-droughted crop. All drilled after sugar beet, average yield of Riband wheat was 10.4t/ha (4.2 t/acre) at 77kg/hl bushel weight. This is a farm record, but sadly it will not be in financial terms.
As usual, all the fields going into sugar beet have been subsoiled at 40-43cm (16-17in), using a Cousins subsoiler. This is on the advice of Philip Draycott, who is totally convinced the benefits of letting our sugar beet roots down through the light sand to the water retentive marl subsoil underneath justify the time and cost.
Over the past five years we have been digging soil profile pits. A pan at 30-35cm (12-14in) is first-hand evidence of the damage caused by 50 years of tractors ploughing in the furrow, with a pan at 30-35cm (12-14in). I suspect the worst culprits were the two-wheel drive tractors used here until the 1980s, with a high percentage wheelslip.
Optic spring barley has yielded 5.7t/ha (2.3 t/acre) at 1.5% nitrogen, and, thankfully, this year skinning levels are much reduced.
We started ploughing on Sept 4 on next years cereal ground, in continuous wet and warm conditions. Though not ideal for landwork, it is good news for our sugar beet. *
Dennis Ford farms 384ha
(950 acres) from Home
Farm, Hinton Parva,
Swindon, Wilts. One-third is
owned, two-thirds tenanted
and a small area contract
farmed. Cropping is winter
wheat, barley, rape and
beans, plus spring rape,
linseed and flax
DESPITE the sunshine flowing into the room as I write, another week has gone by without any combining.
All we have done is move the combine from the beans field to the flax field and back again in the vain hope of finding something to do.
With the cereal harvest complete, as with many of my local farming friends, it is not a problem to close the barn door. Buster wheat has been disappointing. We were rather pleased with ourselves as these crops were all standing at harvest, but with hindsight it is not surprising, there was little grain in the ears. Most had blind grain sites, due mainly to the poor weather in June/July I suspect. The result was, dependent soil type, yields of 5.7-6.4t/ha (2.3-2.6t/acre).
But Hereward was much better yielding at about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre). Having moved in early to combine the crops, quality is very good, with high protein content and Hagberg number.
The beans are still waiting for us to combine them, after five false starts in the last 10 days. Flax, which was sprayed off three weeks ago with 3 litres/ha of Reglone (diquat), is still green in the stem, though the top is now burnt off.
We also desiccated our spring osr last week. Having been in set-aside for four years, it had quite a severe infestation of couch, so this time we used Roundup (glyphosate), again at 3 litres/ha.
Next years winter oilseed rape is drilled and has been sprayed with Butisan (metazachlor) at 1.5 litres/ha. The ground had sewerage cake spread and immediately disced in, followed by a "levelling" cultivation and roll. Two more passes with the rolls followed drilling.
We have got some ploughing done, but several fields have to be cleared of straw, potatoes, beans, flax or spring osr before we can complete the ploughing for our winter crops. *
Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha
(600 acres) as Howe
Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N
Yorks. The medium sandy
loam in the Vale of York
supports potatoes, winter
wheat, rape and barley, plus
grass for sheep
ONCE more, harvest has a distinct north/south divide, with wheat still unfinished from Yorkshire northwards.
Quality from these regions will again be variable, giving the grain buyers and traders in the north another challenging season and my wheat is no exception. Protein content ranges from 10.28-11.56% for Abbot, and 10.18-10.5% for Rialto. Hagbergs start at over 300 from before the first rain interruption, down to 183 in one bin, which I suspect came from a badly lodged area.
Cutting wheat with moisture approaching 30% is no joke, and a very expensive exercise in a time of depressive prices. That is if you are fortunate enough to be able to get on the land. Thankfully, we have finished, but the yields are all down, averaging 7.4t/ha (3t/acre). Oddly, continuous wheats did better than first wheat after rape.
An under-estimation of nitrogen leached by winter rain, slow emergence due to lack of moisture last autumn, and no sunshine this summer have all contributed to the lower yields. Second wheats off light land were all attacked by eelworm (trichodorus species), with one disastrous field only doing 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre).
We have drilled the oilseed rape for next year, and it is feeding slugs nicely. Given a choice of Pronto, Commanche and Apex, not surprisingly they seem to prefer the expensive Pronto, which may necessitate re-drilling. I hope Optimol (metaldehyde) pellets, spread this morning (Sept 11), will stop them in their tracks.
Saturna maincrop crisping potatoes are still too low in dry matter to desiccate, which means this harvest too will be at least three weeks behind. Due to the late planting, the plants still think it is mid-August, not September.
Being positive – contrary to the depression, apathy, and ostrich-like behaviour rife in the farming community – I am sending my men Brian, Dick and Wayne, off to plough, cultivate and drill, in an attempt to grow crops to generate some real income for next year. *