Harvest and OSR update

What a trying year we’re having! I have just had two big cheques in, one for 67% of our wheat at £130/t and one for 52% of our spring barley at £150/t – in the current climate, happy days. I have a further 6% of our wheat sold for £145/t but for the rest of the crop it looks pretty dismal. I’m hoping if I hold my nerve, – things might look better after Christmas??? But with wheat futures back at £125/t for July 16 should I be striking out for next year? A frightening fact I worked out last week was that a £10/t rise (or fall) across the board for us is a generous person’s salary – focuses the mind a little!

Something else that has focused us a little this month was our beloved combine going up in smoke 40ac from the end of harvest. We were hoping to get one more season out of her and she was one of those machines that just worked – we’d hardly spent a penny on her over the last seven years. Our insurance company have been excellent and we did the deal on an ex-hire New Holland CR9.90 this morning, so I’m feeling a little light headed! With prices where they are this is a cost I could well do without.


Our oilseed rape, mustard and a green manure/grazing mixtures try-out are all in the ground and although flea beetle are pretty active, the OSR is currently out-growing their consumption so we have our fingers crossed. We have tried to focus on our OSR this year. Removing the straw on one out of three farms seems to have helped, as does drilling over subsoiler/drill. We also went hard with thiacloprid on the worst block at a very early stage and have not pre-em’d in the hope it gets away quicker. We have used home saved seed this year which we had dressed to a higher TGW than we would normally buy and adjusted our seed rate up to accommodate. In total so far we have saved about £110/ha over last year.

Last year we had four categories of rape after the flea beetle attack, which we were in the hotspot for:

1) Devastated by flea beetle which we pulled up, established spring barley and will return about £200/ha (at £120/t – full malting quality and record yields).

2) Badly affected: either part field pulled up or very thin crop –had about 12-16 larvae/stem over winter. Both yielded about 1.5t/ha and lost about £150/ha (we all but stopped spending on it other than modest fertiliser).

3) Modestly affected: did about 3.4t/ha with 5–8 larvae/stem over winter and made about £140/ha.

4) Fairly unaffected: only 2-3 larvae over winter, did 3.75t/ha and made about £400/ha

The difficulty is that if the rape price had gone up and the spring barley had not had a record year or made quality then the returns may have been quite different, making those decisions very difficult. I hope we won’t have to make them this year.

We have most of our ground worked down now and are waiting for a second black-grass flush before we start drilling.



Jo Franklin is a partner in her family farm and grows approximately 970ha of combinable crops just to the west of Royston, Hertfordshire. Jo also has 230ha of grassland for 1,000 New Zealand Romney ewes and runs a 400ha mixed arable and cattle unit in Hampshire. Jo has a keen interest in soil and crop health, and uses a number of precision farming techniques to ensure accuracy of application. She is currently developing a commercial grain storage facility on-farm. Financial viability and pushing yields are her other main interests.