It’s got to go!

Welcome to new tractor driver Jay who has replaced the now retired Ken. He is proving to be a great asset and at 24, his enthusiasm is infectious. So with our harvest student, Ivan, joining Ian and I we are well placed for harvest.

This was one of the better crops of rape and it only managed 2.5t/ha. Unlike some of the other fields, there were very few gaps to reduce the overall output. So what has hit the yield quite so hard? I am not sure I can completely blame the flea beetle, but they must take the lions share of the loss. There were also establishment issues due to a complete lack of moisture during September. This was exasperated by a further shortfall of rainfall in the spring, particularly during the long flowering period. Rape just doesn’t stack up at current prices with yields below 4t/ha, so it has got to go, but to be replaced by what?  Maybe beans, but both spring and winter to an extent, just can’t cope with our drought prone soils. Yields and therefore profitability are far too variable. We already grow a few spring oats, but that market has been flooded this year and is looking particularly challenging to make decent sales.

I am not completely convinced about a wholesale change to winter linseed. My plan, up until I started cutting the rape, was to increase the linseed and reduce the rape. However, I would only sow the rape if seedbed conditions looked good for a quick germination. Now, having ventured into the linseed, which has also suffered from the earlier dry soils, yields are looking ok. This is despite a much shorter plant and generally small seed capsules. I had budgeted on a pessimistic 2t/ha but ended up at 2.5t/ha, so in the circumstances not bad and hugely more profitable than the rape at the same yield. So maybe winter linseed after all!

The linseed has been more trying to harvest this time. I find it is always best to get it cut as soon as it is ready, but this year that coincided with a lack of sunshine and high humidity. Usually I just turn up, fly through it and leave, with little changes needed to the combine. This year it just kept wrapping around the auger, so I took off the middle retractable fingers in the end and away we went, no more stopping.

We have made a start on winter wheat that is also up on the Chilterns. So far an average yield over the weighbridge of 9.3t/ha, which is pretty good on the brash like soils on this the most northern part of the estate.

Just a final thought on the rape: Wouldn’t it be ironic if future environmental payments were for farmers to grow flowering crops like oilseed rape for the bees.

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