Guest Blog: Emma Foot | Harvest Preparations - desperate for rain
Well our grain store has finally been completed and all ready for harvest, we had the roller door fitted last week. We did a bit more concreting around the grain store on a very hot day so it seemed very hard work, but at least it dried quickly!
As I’m sure you are aware we are currently desperate for rain, the crops are dying off due to lack of moisture. In the whole of May we had a rainfall of 20mm and had nothing since, with the late drilling of spring barley, it didn’t have a great start; going in late due to the wet weather, and now it could do with some moisture as it's really starting to struggle.
By the looks of things at the moment harvest will be early again this year, but as they say early start to harvest means a late finish, the rain has to come sometime and we're sure it’ll be in august when everything is fit to cut.
At the end of May I hauled some grass silage to help out my boyfriends parents silaging team, as they had both foragers on the go. After all the wet weather, once it had dried up, everyone was in a mad rush to catch up so they needed an additional tractor and operator.
Last week we made our hay, on normal years it can be a struggle to have five consecutive dry days so there’s one positive of this dry weather. We used a small baler, which isn’t very common nowadays as it's very labour intensive.
Last evening dad sprayed the oilseed rape off with roundup, which is used to kill the rape off evenly so the seeds are all black. In a uneven crop you could end up having red seeds which buyers do not like. Depending on the weather the roundup could have the crop ripe in around ten days to two weeks. Pod stick was also applied at the same time, this holds the seedpod together to prevent it from shattering. If you have a heavy rainstorm and heavy winds before combining, as rape is a risky crop, a thunderstorm could knock all the seed out of the pods.
A few weeks ago, Dad and I went up to Cereals, which is the biggest arable event in the country, it gathers in excess of 20,000 visitors in the farming industry. It has around 360 exhibitors, so lots to see! They also have trial plots there showing different varieties, bird mixes and cover crops.
This time of year there are a lot of variety trials held by different companies to show the crops. Now is the time you can see how well the crops have grown and also how different varieties compare. Sometimes they have treated and untreated to show if what you’ve been doing is worthwhile for that particular variety. We have different disease pressure this year, as no two years are the same.
Our agronomists firm ‘Agrii’ held an event at a large estate that provided informative information and areas for discussion on the different variety choices for spring oats, winter wheat and oilseed rape, followed by a meal.
A firm that we sell some of our grain to, called Glencore, invited Dad and myself along to a discussion on grain marketing and treated us to fish and chips and a boat tour around Portland, to see where the grain boats are loaded, luckily the weather was perfect!
Blackgrass seems to be an increasing problem within certain areas of the UK, I have spent a lot of time hand pulling it as its very difficult to control through the use of chemicals, each seed head can contain up to 200 seeds, which can grow anywhere within 9 years. It’s said that you have to control 97% of the plants to keep the population of plants static, so it’s very important to try and eradicate blackgrass. The image below is some blackgrass I found in our winter oats.
Last September I applied for mid tier countryside stewardship, it’s a scheme designed to help further look after the environment. Each farm selects their options that best suit their farm. For our farm we applied for hedge laying, cover crops, scrub clearance and putting in a hardcore track, which will replace our current chalk track, and allow us to use it in all weathers. This autumn was a prime example of how it would make life easier as we couldn’t get up the chalk track to get up to the fields to put the chicken muck there so had to tip it in another field and haul it up another day when it was drier. It will also help to prevent erosion and runoff, as it will have drains. Although we have already been growing cover crops for Wessex water, this is a longer-term scheme.
Next time you hear from me, we will hopefully have been busy combining and then preparing ready for the following years crops.
Thank you for taking the time to have a read.