Crop Rotation: Oakley gives way to Rhino

That was a quick two months. Summer stuttering and stumbling into autumn almost unnoticed. I like September and October. A time of harvest, ‘mellow fruitfulness’ and new beginnings (as far as next year’s autumn sown crops are concerned at least). It’s also the start of the domestic rugby season, though I haven’t played for a while now . . .


Weather or not

The BBC weather presenters have just summarized the period from 1st January to 31st August as the driest over that period since 1976 for our region; but for east Scotland around Fife, the wettest since 1916!

Today we are experiencing the remnants of one or more hurricanes that have swung across the Atlantic. Recently (written 11th September) if it’s not raining then it’s blowing a gale.


Oakley Harvest

Although the harvest weather was not ideal, the ‘campaign’ was uneventful. The huge capacity of Mark’s Claas Lexion combine meant that up to 100 acres a day can be harvested. I used to be pretty ‘chuffed’ to complete 15 acres a day! Our 335 acres were done over a period of 5 days with a short rain interruption.

Yields were much better than those anticipated in May, when the official drought was declared. Remember that? It’s hard to recall such dry conditions now. We have probably ended up10% down on our budgeted yield, but world wheat prices have risen which have more than compensated, although, with forward selling pre-harvest a proportion of our harvest yield, we locked into a series of rising prices before the peak. Because we only know this in hindsight, and markets can of course go down as well as up, we like to forward sell a proportion once we reach a pre-agreed budget figure that we know will give a reasonable return. It manages the risk.

Straw is fetching high prices this year as livestock farmers compete for the shorter and thinner crops from the drought.  Straw yield seems to have been more affected even more than grain. We still prefer to chop and incorporate our straw. This adds organic matter to the soil and means that we are not risking soil compaction from the baling and carting machinery, nor the delays to cultivations if wet weather prevents speedy removal of the bales.


Rhino; a month in the life of an Oil Seed Rape plant

We are continuing to grow just one crop each year in the OSR/Wheat/ Wheat rotation. This year it is OSR. Two varieties, Cabernet and Rhino, have been direct drilled (i.e. no ploughing or previous cultivation prior to the tines on the drill itself) into almost perfect conditions with rainfall immediately after. Lack of moisture will not be a problem at this stage.

Seedlings are just appearing as I write. Wheat ‘volunteers’, from the previous crop, will be sprayed off with selective chemical applications before they compete too aggressively with the OSR seedlings. Slugs, and later on, pigeons, will be monitored for damage they may cause to the young plants.

Input costs are a concern. Fertiliser prices have risen by 38% in the year to 31st August (123% in 5 years) and fuel by 25%; both commodities linked to the price of oil . These will have a significant negative effect on budgets for Harvest 2012.


Elsewhere on the Farm

The in-field footpath from Meppershall to Shefford will be surfaced with road planings this week and will provide an ‘all weather’ surface for the wetter winter days and dark winter evenings.


Global Issue / Warm off the Press

The Romanian EU Agriculture Commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, is finalizing his plans for CAP reform for 2013 / 14. Leaked documents are being scrutinized and used to try and influence decision makers in the Commission by the individual governments of the 27 nations as well as the farming and the environmental lobby groups. More on this, once the plans are actually published.


Interesting Statistic(s)

1.7 billion US Dollar contribution by biofuels to US economy.

Shortage of grouse on Scottish shooting estates (is that before or after the shooting started on the 12th August??)


50 Years Ago: Michael Foster’s Diary Extract from 1961

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16th October: Started picking brussell sprouts; not as large as expected.

17th October : Foot and Mouth (Disease) restrictions reduced from 10 to 5 miles around Great Barford.       

24th October: 2 Irishmen booked to start pulling (by hand) mangolds (big red roots like overgrown turnips) for winter dairy feed; estimate 1.75 acres yielding 65 tonnes, all hand pulled: (you wouldn’t catch me doing that!)[/listitems]


Thought for the Month: Anniversaries

Today, is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York. I can remember exactly where I was when we heard the breaking news.

August 30th was the 20th anniversary of our Dairy dispersal sale. So soon!!

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