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Mid-harvest musings

Updated: Oct 6, 2019

Harvest is progressing well with sunny breezy days interspersed with showers. The Met Office forecasts on my phone have been fairly accurate, learning towards the pessimistic, which I would far rather as one then feels relieved when the forecast rain doesn’t arrive. Of course, when one is praying for rain, the opposite is true!

We began harvest on July 29th with our rape which produced a crop which was slightly above average yield and very clean. The grain store was crawling with flea beetles harvested with the rape but hopped and flew their way out after a few days looking for brassica crops elsewhere to feed on. There is no doubt that the ban on neonicotinoid chemicals has increased their numbers and farming press is full of good advice from professional agronomists and entomologists on dealing with the problem. Much of the advice is contradictory with the only constant being to minimalize the amount of money spent on the crop until it has passed the critical point of end of September. I have had comments from good vegetable gardeners that some of their greens in the garden had suffered damage. Our rape was definitely hit by larvae in the stems during the spring. Much work is being done by scientists on the life cycle of the beetle which hopefully will produce good advice in the future.

We started combining wheat on August 2nd and quickly realised we had some good crops to harvest. Being in charge of the grain store, and not being able to what is happening in the field, I usually guess the size of the crop by the speed the trailers keep coming home. This year the intake elevator was definitely earning its keep. We started on some seed plots to produce next years home grown seed. We were delighted that the weigher on the combine was reporting yields on the plot of 5 tonnes per acre. As we progressed onto biscuit milling wheat the field average remained at 4.75 tons per acre and one field went just over the magic 5 for the whole field. The rain we had in early June, which ruined some of the hay, has produced some of the best wheat crops we have ever grown. We have 3 days left on wheat, then 2 on barley and 2 on spring beans so everything is nicely on target.

The home saved rape seed will be cleaned and prepared for sowing in about 10 days time. The hedge cutter is busy doing field edges and ditches but will not start hedges until September. We have most of the rape and 600 tons of wheat to load over the next 2 weeks which will probably prove the most lucrative sales this season as lack of export business to Europe, and the potentially large crop at home, has understandably dropped prices significantly. Hopefully you will all see good deals on bread and breakfast cereals.

The sunflowers we added to our winter bird feed last year caused some nice compliments, so we have repeated the exercise again this year. For some reason they are not quite so successful. We think they were not drilled quite so deeply and were eaten by rooks. However some of last year’s crop was obviously spread by birds as they have appeared in next door’s fields. My apologies to Roger Williamson who, I am sure, did not sow sunflowers in his sugar beet!

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