I really would rather leave the ‘notes’ spot in the magazine empty this month as I do not wish to be accused of being a happy optimistic farmer or to be tempting fate! Harvest is progressing well in very favourable conditions now we have got one wet weekend out of the way. We started winter barley on 21st July in warm sunshine and the whole crop came in without drying. It was the lowest nitrogen winter barley we have ever grown and produced an excellent yield of 3½ tonnes an acre, by far the heaviest crop we have ever grown. All has been delivered to Molson Coors at a very low price so look out for some very cheap lager in the shops!! The straw was all baled into small and big bales. The small bales got a heavy shower on them but were all stacked safely. The big bales got a heavy shower and then a deluge on them which left us with a problem. We took a chance and put them in the shed but within two or three days the wet straw was going mouldy. When they got so hot that I couldn’t put my hand into the stack, we decided to cut our losses and they have been put in a pile to burn when it is safe to do so. Apart from the risk of fire, we cannot give the pigs mouldy straw to sleep on.
Since then the weather has been kind and the combine has not stopped. The rape was a bit above average but not as good as last year. The seeds were small, probably due to the hot spell we had in June when the pods were filling. Everything is being compared to last year and we really should not do that. Harvest 2014 was exceptional and we cannot expect that type of result to be the norm. or can we? The first field of wheat was a small 9acre piece we had sown to provide seed for sowing this year. The combine yield meter started hitting the 5 tonne an acre mark in some patches and the phone calls back to base got increasingly excitable. Since then things have calmed down a bit with some fields performing at an average but others doing well above. We have about a week’s work left and the final result will have to wait until next month’s notes.
The yield maps which the combine produces are proving very interesting and we now have to decide whether to use this information constructively or just mount them on the office wall to kid visitors that we are very scientific in our farming. The fact that some bits of field produce 25% more crops than others, does beg the question what if we give the good bits more fertiliser or try to raise the game on the poorer patches. We are going to have to have the nutrient status of the whole farm mapped accurately and see just how much variation there is. We will then have the opportunity to top up the bad patches if we want to. We are not totally convinced that we will save any money on fertiliser but we hope that we can raise average yields annually by being more accurate with the maintenance of soil nutrient levels. It does mean putting our trust totally on the accuracy of our fertiliser spreader and its ability to receive instructions from various computers, tablets, smart phones, memory sticks,…..!!
I remember my grandfather trying to explain the workings of our new grain store to visitors in 1960. He failed totally to describe the passage of the grain from the combine to the bin. I feel just like him where electronic aids are concerned. I wish I was able to join him in a conversation about modern farming – over a single malt, which is one love we had in common – albeit exactly 50 years apart. I’ll have to take a tot over to the cemetery and chat it over with him!