Farmer Focus: Wet harvest, dreadful peas and a music festival

todayAugust 1, 2023 2

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We started harvesting Maris Otter winter barley on Monday 10 July but it has been slow progress since.

We cut just 120ha (10% of our combine area) in the first fortnight of harvest with our solitary John Deere and its 40ft draper header.

It has rained almost every day since St Swithun’s Day (15 July) and the medium-term forecast shows no sign of change.

I pray we don’t get the full 40 days and 40 nights, as folklore suggests, or I’m unlikely to find much oilseed rape left in the pods by the time we get to it.

See also: Harvest 2023: The 5 top-yielding winter barley varieties map

About the author

Robert Scott

Robert Scott farms 1,800ha of arable in mid-west Norfolk for seven different landowners. He grows combinable crops and sugar beet together with cover crops, grass leys and extensive countryside stewardship schemes. He also finishes 2,000 lambs a year.
Instagram: @thscottandson

It also looks as though the wheat, spring barley and rye will now ripen together.

At which point I will be wanting to divide my combine into seven pieces to keep all my farming partners content. Who would be an arable contractor?

Early combine yields so far have been middling, with Maris Otter achieving a yield of 5.9t/ha and thankfully hitting malting spec.

There is plenty of straw, with large swaths behind the combine.

It is a welcome change to have some reasonable yields, as our vining peas were dreadful this year.

The weather hasn’t helped, but we’ve learned the hard way that vining peas are not a crop suited to direct drilling, or a wide (25cm) row spacing as they fall flat in extreme weather with no neighbouring plants to prop them up.

A bare seed-bed doesn’t suit our system well either, as it leaves our sandy soils too exposed to the elements, risking compaction from a heavy downpour.

A legume re-think is needed before next year.

A few days in Suffolk at the Latitude music festival provided some well-timed respite from staring at weather forecasts and stationary machinery.

The weather remained true to form and it poured down for most of the weekend, so I wore my bib and brace and full shepherding wet weather kit.

It felt rather apt, given the annual tradition of the famous pink sheep of Henham Park being at the event.

Despite not looking like I’d left the farm, rocking along to the melodic sounds of Paolo Nutini’s “Iron Sky” was just what was needed to clear my head.

I hope St Swithun can now take some time off too and let us get on with harvest.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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