‘Curate’s Egg’ harvest at Hendred Estate
Harvest started well with winter barley yielding around 9.8 t/ha of full malting quality Cassata. Straw yields were also high (winter barley is the only crop we bale – everything else is chopped and returned to the soil). The big straw swathes caused us some problems with our CTF system, as we have to continually run on top of them with tractors and grain trailers, although we soon solved this cheaply by belly sheeting everything. We also struggled to get the straw dry due to green stems and rain on the swathes. This caused further head scratching to try to spread and re- gather the straw without tractors leaving the wheelways, but managed to do it with hay tedder and borrowed twin rotor grass rake. Our straw handling system can now deal with any eventuality without us ever deviating from our CTF lanes and causing random damaging compaction where we don’t want it.
OSR harvest was early and easy but yields did not quite live up to expectations (approx. 3.6 t/ha compared with 5yr average of 3.9t/ha). Various cultivation and late N trials failed to prove much but will be looked at again in the depths of winter to see if anything can be teased out. (I would be keen to do more on farm trials but am always disappointed because combine yield meters are invariably too inaccurate to show subtle differences; if anyone has a cheap second-hand plot combine for sale…!)
The wheat harvest was the star of the show, with our overall average looking to be very approximately 11.2 t/ha (5yr. av is 9.49 t/ha). Hagbergs and specific weights were fantastic but the protein levels were inevitably diluted by the high yields so that we will not get full milling price for our Cordiale. Luckily I had started selling early, based on budgeted cost of production (the information was provided at the Monitor Farm open meeting in June) and I had got a reasonable tonnage of wheat sold before the price went into a nosedive.
The final crop to harvest was our spring beans, which were a massive disappointment at approximately 1.9 t/ha (5yr av is 3.55t/ha ). The reason for this shocking yield is hard to fathom when all our neighbours’ crops around us seemed to do really well. I think it was a combination of factors, including direct drilling and min tilling into wet seedbeds, late green aphid infestations, and downy mildew, etc. It just proves the point about yield variability in spring beans and is something I want to look at in our Monitor Farm programme of meetings, especially now that pulses are so topical because of CAP reform.
We have grown a large area of beans for some years as part of a sustainable, wide rotation but, just as many people are starting to grow them, I am thinking that it is difficult to justify a big area of crop which often detracts from our overall farm performance.
With the early harvest we got good early seedbeds for OSR which were fertilised and sprayed off before drilling the OSR into good moisture. Unfortunately we have had almost total crop failure in the fieldwork due to slugs, whereas the headlands (which were effectively twice rolled) have established and grown well. At the time of writing we have just finished re-drilling the failed areas but conditions are now so dry it is touch and go whether it will germinate and grow…such are the joys of farming!
With the various problems people have had with OSR establishment this year we plan to talk a bit on this subject at our next meeting on 21 October.
Creating a second stale seedbed.
Cereal stale seedbeds were all made close behind the combine and a good first flush of weeds sprayed off. We have now nearly finished ‘tickling’ a second stale seedbed with our cheap 10m Wiberg/Roll combination. Unfortunately the current lack of moisture may inhibit a further flush but at least it is a quick, shallow pass which is not letting too much moisture out of the seedbed.
We have our winter programme of meetings now arranged and will be covering topics such as precision farming, pulse agronomy, nutrition, oilseed rape establishment and crop marketing as well as getting a local benchmarking group going.