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Friday 2 December 2016

It was all hands on deck at the end of a long drawn out harvest

Helen Harris

Published 23/09/2015 | 02:30

Ross Barrett inspecting the sugar beet crop on Tom Wall's farm in Athy, Co Kildare as Philip Hughes, contractor harvests. Mr Wall sowed 26 acres of crop this season. Photo: Roger Jones.
Ross Barrett inspecting the sugar beet crop on Tom Wall's farm in Athy, Co Kildare as Philip Hughes, contractor harvests. Mr Wall sowed 26 acres of crop this season. Photo: Roger Jones.

Every year the harvest has its ups and downs and this year was no different. What was different this year was the length of time that it took for us to harvest.

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We started to cut winter barley at the end of July and we were still cutting winter wheat in the second week of September. It seemed to drag out much longer than normal, because of all the showers during August.

There were other farmers driving around for sport in Kildare. No sooner than they would arrive in a field, the heavens would open and off they would go to another field for the same thing to happen there.

It's very frustrating to spend your day running around from field to field and get nothing done.

When the weather did finally give us, and the rest of the parish, a run at the harvest it was a convoy of tractors and trailers up and down the roads. Empty yards were suddenly bursting with grain. The lads following with balers would need to clone themselves to cover all the fields that needed baling.

Everyone was cutting the same few days and it was all hands on deck.

I have heard about this year's record yields and bumper crops, but we weren't as lucky as some. In general the yields were up on the last couple of years.

The six row winter barley, Meridan, was a cracking crop, reaching the 5t/ac green. The other winter barleys (two row) Cassia and Tower didn't do as well at 4.5t/ac green. We cut them all, at about 18pc moisture.

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The oilseed rape was the best we have ever grown at 2t/ac. I'm not sure whether this was because we grew a full hybrid variety rather than a semi dwarf or the benefit of eight bags per acre of Dynamo chicken litter pellets.

However, we did find it very thick and tricky to cut. You could really see the losses when we tilled the field and now have a fine crop of volunteers.

Platform

This proves how much you lose as we don't have an extension platform on our header.

The new crop oilseed rape is jumping out of the ground in the last couple of weeks. It was sown on August 16. It looks a good thick crop even though we reduced the seeding rate from 50 to 40 seeds per metre squared.

Some volunteer barley has come up with it because it didn't have enough time to have a stale seed bed. It will get sprayed very shortly with Aramo at 1l/ha to kill the barley.

The winter wheat varied dramatically in yield and quality.

The big difference was between crops that are continuous and crops in rotation. We never had much of a difference between the yields until this year. The best was Weaver after oil seed rape which hit the 6t/ac and 82kph.

The other end of the scale was Evolution which didn't weigh that bad at 4.6t/ac but the kph was only 69.

The other varieties were JB Diego, Lumos and Ferrari, all yielding over 4.5t/ac but their quality was much better at 75-80kph.

Little were we to know that when we were booking a week's holidays in the spring, that it would be the week when forward prices crashed.

As a result, we forward sold very little grain this year, and have ended up selling some green. That's not our normal style, especially in a year when diesel prices are so low (making drying and storing the crop more economical). We will soon find out if this was the right or wrong decision.

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co. Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer.

Next up

The gap between cutting and sowing is gone so it will be straight into ploughing for the next few weeks. The fields will only have the bales cleared and it will be straight in with the plough. I hope the weather is going to be a little kinder for sowing than it was for harvesting. After looking at the yields from this year we have to make a few final changes on crops and varieties. We will look at Teagasc recommended list and suppliers list and make up our mind.

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