2016 Harvest – back to stubble with a bump!
If 2015 was a bumper 10t/ha year then 2016 has been a positively average 7.5t/ha year! Barley harvest set us off to a bad start and the OSR didn’t do much for the mood. With all the talk of low June sunshine levels we held some hope for the wheat following a brighter July but we certainly didn’t break any records. We dipped our toe in the milling wheat market with Skyfall and have achieved good protein levels but yields have been poor, KWS Lili was our top performer so has survived the cull to be planted again for next year.
2016 saw a marked change in our cropping philosophy with the cutting by half of the OSR area and the introduction of spring crops. Whilst I am quite happy to have had less low yielding OSR its clear we still have a long way to go before we are overly profitable spring crop growers. Of the spring beans, wheat and oats, the beans were the top performers against budget and have provided the best seedbed for the following wheat crops which we have now started to drill. We held our nerve as long as we dared and it was tempting to wait longer as the kind autumn continues but our land has a habit of going very sticky almost overnight, something I’ve learnt before.
OSR crops have established reasonably well and we are persevering with HOLL varieties due to their premium. Our crops have grown away from any flea beetle damage it seems but slugs continue to graze in patches. We have done a lot more true subsoiling of headlands this year in an effort to lift some of the soils after last year’s wet winter, and you can see a real difference in the OSR crops where we have pulled a subsoiler through at 12 inches. The performance of our headlands is a real issue for me and something we need to vastly improve. I was keen to try and put some figures on the impact of headlands but now wish I hadn’t. In barley the yield was 15-20% less and in wheat up to 25% less, a big impact when our average field size is just 8ha, something many people can relate to in this part of the world. So the question remains, how can we compete with the arable lands of the east?!
I’m playing again this autumn with variable rate seeding on some whole field trials. I’m hoping I will get some results to convince myself one way or the other whether it is worth it or not. We will have to wait to next year to find out I guess. It’s at times like these when I envy the dairy farmers out there who don’t always have to wait a year to see the results of something new!
With winter approaching planning has commenced for our first set of Monitor Farm meetings so please put in your diary the dates below and bring friends and neighbours along. The more people we get, the more productive the discussions will be. Hopefully there is something to interest everyone out there, if 2016 has proven something it is that a lot of un-answered questions remain……!
15-Nov-16: Crops or fallow? Alternative crops, alternative markets
13-Dec-16: Soils, power, compaction and return on costs. It’s all in the balance, with Philip Wright.
10-Jan-17: Crops, soil nutrition, cover crops and fertilisers.
14-Feb-17: What can we learn from organic arable farming?