Harvesting to the fore

21 August 1998

Harvesting to the fore

MID-AUGUST and harvest is well under way as I take a break from the heat and dust to work on this report, writes John Lambkin.

We started harvesting with the Maris Otter winter barley on July 20 which, at the time, we estimated to have yielded 6t/ha (48.5cwt/acre). Ten days later, after the merchant had lifted the crop, we were advised that the final weight was, in fact, 64.78t or 5.85t/ha (46.6cwt/acre) – we obviously were a bit enthusiastic on our Weylode estimates! The added bonus of good quality barley straw, just over 52t or 4.7t/ha (1.8t/acre) meant that we were just in time to provide the pig unit with new crop straw as the old ran out.

The oilseed rape was slow to mature, our policy of neither swathing nor desiccating has paid off in previous years but this year we found it difficult to contain our patience as neighbours pressed on with theirs leaving us still twiddling our thumbs.

No to swathing

Although I would not go back to swathing, I think a pass with glyphosate may well have helped even-up the crop for combining and by killing off the corn flowers, making harvesting quicker and reducing straw walker losses.

We debated this in early July and decided that the losses resulting from running through the crop with the sprayer on 20m tramlines would outweigh the benefits.

After a couple of false starts, we finally got going on a field of Pronto on July 28 and finished on August 5 in Apex, but only actually combining on five out of the nine days. First indications are that Pronto yielded 3.4t/ha (27cwt/acre) and Apex 4.0t/ha (32cwt/acre) to give an overall average for the 29.24ha (72 acres) grown of 3.4t/ha (27cwt/acre).

That is somewhat surprising given all the good publicity surrounding restored hybrid rape. We also found the Apex considerably easier to cut and of more even maturity.

The estimated yield is down 10% on last year but since it has been sold for movement "as available" at £148.50/t we should not have long to wait for the actual turn-out figure.

We had hoped to add value by hauling the seed to the merchants store ourselves, but the period of slack time between harvesting the oilseeds and pulses and the wheat has not materialised and we have elected to sell "collected" and forego the additional £3/t.

The cost effectiveness of putting two tractors and trailers on the road to haul 100t seven miles for £300 has to be in doubt anyway.

With the sun shining and temperatures rising in the high 20s we decided to go for linseed next.

Some of the crop had been laid by the severe rain in June and it seemed important to catch this before a change in the weather again. As luck would have it, the combine went like a sewing machine and we were able to make light work of the 19.65ha (48 acres) of Oliver winter linseed.

We estimate that we have harvested 39t or 2.0t/ha (16 cwt/acre) of seed, 9t of which has been sold for harvest movement at £145/t and the remainder for seed will be moved later.

Different straws

Both the oilseed rape and linseed straw went through the chopper on the combine and was subsequently chopped and spread with our Spearhead topper. The rape straw and stalks have been disced in and amount to nothing now while the linseed looks as if the fields have been spread with six inches of cotton wool.

Discing and drilling will not work on these fields and we will need to resort to the plough and press.

The rape stubble will be disced as many times as the rape keeps germinating and should drill well with wheat early next month.

On then to the Sancho vining peas grown on contract for seed. These were even closer to the ground than last year and finding the best way to open up the field proved difficult, given that they seem to be lodged in all directions. Having cut out the headlands, we finally elected to travel north to south over the tramlines cutting one way only and slipping back. Cutting across six months wheelings is bad enough but slipping back in third gear is not good to man or machine.

Easing travel

Fortunately the student whose job it was to cart off the combine also found time to disc harrow roadways across the harvested area for ease of travel.

The peas appear to have yielded around 65t off 16.38ha (40 acres) or 4t/ha (32cwt/acre). The sample is good and clean but the yield 6% down on last year.

The 12ha of Riviera spring barley had a few silver heads in it when we started harvesting but our decision to proceed was soon confirmed once we got into the crop which had already begun to neck and lodge. We could ill afford a mess on this field which had been undersown for the second year running with Mongita perennial ryegrass for seed production. Last year we lost the grass due to a fusarium attack which decimated the take.

The barley has done reasonably well and we estimate a yield of around 6t/ha (48cwt/acre) and a straw yield of 45t or 3.75t/ha (1.5t/acre). As for the wheat, early indications are that the Drake, which succumbed to the storms in June and had got progressively more prostrate ever since, is yielding in excess of 8t/ha (64cwt/acre) but more of that anon.

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