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Seed testing offers a chance to decide which ones to keep

As I write, I can hear the hum of the dryer in the background. It has been going strong for a fortnight but its work for this year is nearly done. When we turn it off, I think I will still hear it buzzing in my head. The chaff and dust from it has blown around the house like snow.

When we started cutting the wheat two weeks ago, it was 23pc moisture, which took about four hours to get down to 14pc in the drier. But the majority of it came in around 17-18pc, which makes a big difference to the time it spends in the dryer. Even when we have it dried and stored safely in the shed, we still have to keep an eye on the temperature to make sure we get no hot spots.

Overall, it was a good harvest. When we started, the weather forecasters gave us a mixed review of what was to come, but in reality it didn't turn out so bad here in Kildare. We had no major machinery trouble either. We had the usual small things, punctures and hydraulic hoses deciding to leak.

Our Claas 660 combine had no bother with the damp conditions that we started with. We decided to invest €250 plus VAT in a reversing camera on the back of the combine to help the driver see behind. The blind spot behind the combine is so big that it's easy for a bale or trailer to hide until you feel the clunk when you've hit it.

We didn't break any yield records and, speaking to many neighbours in Kildare, there were many good crops, but equally everybody had some poor fields that brought their average weight down. We got a couple of fields across the weigh bridge before we tipped them off, but then it got too busy. As expected, the Einstein, Grafton, and JB Diego winter wheats all did well, in or around the 4t/ac.

The field of Kingdom winter wheat didn't do well all year and was lighter when it came across the weigh bridge at only 3.5t/ac.

One other field of Einstein was disappointing. We had taken a lot of soil samples last year and had spread lime on this particular field but it still didn't perform well.

We are wondering whether we should put in a break crop rather than continuous wheat on these low-yielding fields.

However, when we average it all out, this year's harvest was good. A decent yield, decent weather and the signs are good for a decent price too.

Our straw matched the yield of the grain in each variety. Those that did well in grain had a good amount of straw and those that had a poor yield also had a poor yield of straw.

We got three to five 8x4x3 bales/ac. We sell some to our neighbours and the rest to a local farmer who has a contract with a mushroom grower. We also keep about 250 round bales for our straw boiler, which is used to heat the house. Depending on the price of oil, some years this works out very economically.

We are already preparing for next season by sending off samples of wheat to be tested for germination and fusarium. The barley gets tested for barley yellow dwarf virus and germination. It will be important to get it tested for BYDV this year because there was a lot of aphids around, which spread the virus. We used a sampling probe to get an even sample throughout the heap of grain.

The results should be back in a couple of weeks to help us decide what we are going to grow and how much we will grow of each variety. If the harvesting of the crop gets delayed by bad weather, the grain can sprout in the head. This has a double impact since you immediately start losing weight in the grain and, at the same time, this grain is ruling itself out of being used as seed the following year. So it is important to only keep good quality, clean seed that has high percentage germination.

It won't be long now before we take out the plough and it starts all over again.

Helen & Philip Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Email:

Indo Farming