Promising harvest despite the weather

Statistically August is one of the wetter months of the year and this has been no exception at Poolham Hall Farm.

I have recorded 40mm of rain in the last week and a total of 68mm for the month.

Oilseed rape harvest was completed on August 14, the crop gave an average yield of about one and a half tons an acre. The lack of sunshine during June and July has meant oil levels in the seed are only just over 40 per cent and the level of bonus payments will therefore be small.

My new combine coped well with the laid crops although there have been for too many teething problems with the new machine for my liking.

My wheat harvest commenced on August 19 at the Heckington Farm. The crop in truth was barely ready to combine, but with more than 500 acres to cut and the days getting shorter, we pushed on between the showers and finished at that farm in five days. 150 acres of Cordiale Wheat gave an overall yield of just over three tons an acre.

The grain has been tested and the results are pleasing. The crop is of milling quality and will attract a good premium over feed wheat. Unfortunately since moving the combine back to Poolham, there has been rain on every day except one and no more progress has been made.

This wet spell may have stopped progress with the combine, but it has allowed me to progress with spreading farmyard manure on the Oilseed Rape Stubbles which have now all been ploughed. With my concerns over the problems of controlling Blackgrass by chemicals in cereal crops and the large drop in yield they cause if not killed, I have been trying new ploughs to give better cultural control of the grass weeds.

The Kverneland No28 plough body certainly makes a better job of burying the weeds than the No8 plough body I am currently using, although the plough does bake take more pulling and will lead to higher fuel costs per acre.

A consequence of the late wheat harvest and showery weather is that I am unable to drill my winter oilseed rape as the wheat crop is still standing in the field.

The ideal time to drill oilseed rape is between the middle of August and the end of the first week of September as the crop needs to be well established to survive the frosts of the winter. Any crops drilled after the middle of September will produce lower than average yields the following harvest, so the pressure is on to clear the fields with the combine and follow quickly behind with the drill.

Only 30 per cent of the wheat crop will have been harvested nationally by the end of August which is far lower than we would normally expect. The yields both locally and nationally have been extremely variable and the quality has also suffered.

I have heard from local farmers who are combining virtually good crops of wheat, but on inspecting the ears, finding no seed or very punched grains.

Their yields are only about two tons an acre, and it is not their fault. The high rainfall and lack of sunshine in June and early July has affected some wheat variables very badly. My Problem at Poolham is that 70 per cent of my wheat crop is Oakley and Duxford, two of the worst affected variables.