Harvest19 at Diss Monitor Farm

It’s Monday 29 July and we’re 28% of the way through. It’s a bittersweet harvest for us. Initially we had a few issues with GPS equipment. The RTK radio and the receiver had some condensation inside it and so didn’t work when we first started the first field. We did a field and a half without one, and then we were loaned one by the local dealer so we could get our yield mapping going.

On the plus-side, the winter barley yields have been excellent with huge amounts of straw. But unfortunately that still sits on the floor: we had 20ml rain over the weekend so we’re hoping for some drier weather. But it’s a bit of an unsettled week, so we’ll just have to see.

Winter barley yields averaged 9.35t/ha across the whole farm, which we’re really pleased with.

Oilseed rape has been similar to last year. Ramses has done 4.06t/ha, which had muck under it. That has been the saviour – it’s done really well. The Eraton is usually not as far out as this, but it was 3.29t/ha, but most of that didn’t have muck under it. You could see a massive difference in yield between the areas that had muck and those that didn’t. Going forwards with oilseed rape we will be looking to put muck over the whole fields, not just a proportion.

The rain over the weekend really brought the wheat on phenomenally well. The crops really ripened quite quickly.

Compared with last year, this year oilseed rape yields are a smidge down but about the same. It’s not too dissimilar, taking into account different soil types and things.

The winter barley is the biggest surprise. It’s an absolutely phenomenal yield and a phenomenal amount of straw. It’s definitely the year for winter barley, and as long as the spring barley stays standing, I think it will be a good yield on the spring barley too. I think it will be the wheats that suffer, when it comes to yield.

We do usually bale our barley straw, to get it into the shed early.

None of the winter barley has been sold yet, rightly or wrongly, but I’m looking to sell it at the moment and I’m looking at prices around December/January because there’s a good uplift on prices until then at the moment, from harvest prices – this is why we favour our storage.

Oilseed rape is all sold to King’s Frontier to the high erucic market and goes to Hull.

How do we stay safe at harvest? We try not to do too many silly hours. We have our grain trailers tested, so both of them have Tilly Tests on them so we know they’re safe. Good maintenance, and make sure that when the staff can they do actually take breaks, and have time off during harvest to rest and recoup, so that when you do go again everybody has the right mindset.

My most useful piece of harvest technology is GPS. But the weighbridge for me is the biggest benefit – the fact that we can weigh off every field and it gives you the opportunity to scrutinise fields just that little bit closer. We match that to the yield data that comes from the combine, and then you can really start to pull fields apart and see trends.

What do I like to listen to while I’m harvesting? It depends what time of day and how bad the radio is. Sometimes the radio is quite good – if you get a good cheesy song on it gets things going and keeps you in the right mindframe. But I also like podcasts – Rock and Roll Farming is quite a good one.

It seems like we’re in for a bit of a different year from last year, when everything was dry and straightforward. This year it seems as though we have a couple of days of dry, and then into wet again. It doesn’t concern me from a combining point of view, but when it comes to straw  I think if the straw gets wet it’s going to be quite a difficult season to get the straw dry again, which means getting fields cleared. Cultivations could ultimately be delayed, which is not what we want.

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Richard Ling

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