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The big Push is now on as harvest hopes rise

All three Teagasc Better Crop farmers are hopeful that conditions are changing and that significant progress will be made on the harvest this week.

However, conditions are still less than ideal and, similar to all tillage farmers this year, they all have a large proportion of the harvest to finish.

O'Donoghues in Meath

Joe O'Donoghue was drying the last batch of barley from the previous few hours of harvesting late last week.

"We are only nipping at the harvest whenever we can. Yields of spring barley are holding up quite well at close to 3t/ac and the small amount of wheat cut to date yielded quite well at over 3.5t/ac, but the hectolitre weight was only 65kg/hl," said Joe.

As the O'Donoghues have a batch dryer, they are prepared to harvest in the low 20s and dry down to extend each harvest day but Joe is unwilling at this stage of the year to harvest above 23-24pc moisture. The batch dryer is helping to bring up bushel weights and Joe expects to get his wheat close to 72kg/hl.

"We need two weeks with long days of combining to complete the harvest, but ground conditions are the most worrying thing for us at the moment," said Joe.

However, the weather up to the middle of last week was extremely wet and the worry is that some of the barley is starting to break down, with the added risk of sprouting in the wheat. Like most other growers Joe has a proportion of grain forward sold and the price rise, combined with poor yield, is hard to take this year.

Crowleys in Cork

John Crowley was in the middle of sorting out a few problems with his continuous flow dryer when I was talking to him last week.

The Crowleys extended the dryer's capacity so that grain was on the yard for the minimum amount of time reducing the risk of heating in the grain pile. This was in response to a normal year when the previous dryer's capacity could not cope with the output from the combine.

However, every year is different and this is not a problem this year.

"It appears Cork has received even more rain than the rest of the country and ground conditions have never been as bad at this time of the year," said John.

Extra combine capacity was hired in to finish the winter barley and 50pc of the straw is still on the ground. They were happy with the yield with over 3.5t/ac harvested.

However, damage was done to the soil during the harvest.

"We have made some progress with winter wheat and yields are holding but bushel weights are low at 68 kg/hl," said John.

Ground conditions continue to be the big problem, with his combine unable to cut some of the spring barley as it could not travel on the hilly ground.

The major concern is that almost all the lighter ground is harvested and the surface conditions on heavier ground is very poor.

"So far our yields are lower than normal but in comparison to other reports around the county, we cannot complain," added John.

Williamsons of Wexford

Similar to the Crowleys, the Williamsons were completing minor repairs before the expected harvest rush over the weekend.

"There has been a lot of down-time this harvest, probably too much" said George, referring to the volume of grain which he has forward sold and the price he could have achieved. The Williamsons have winter barley and oilseed rape complete but there were still some winter oats to finish.

"We got bogged in the winter oats and had to pull out and it's likely we won't be able to go back until after 4-5 days of dry weather," said George.

Yields so far are very mixed with winter barley and winter oats disappointing but the oilseed rape topped 1.6t/ac and the spring barley has been yielding 2.9t/ac so far.

The Williamsons have not harvested wheat to date but reports of 50-57kg/hl in the local area are not encouraging.

"We are bracing ourselves for yields of 3t/ac in the winter wheat," said George.

The Williamsons are chopping most of the straw on headlands so that baling the straw in the middle of the field might be a little easier. The Williamsons have at least 10 days of their own harvesting to complete with a few more days contracting ahead of them.

One of the most difficult decisions is which field to combine first, with ground conditions dictating every move.

"Overall this is one of the most disappointing harvests, considering the potential in all our crops in June," said George.

Michael Hennessy is a Teagasc crops specialist based in Oakpark

Indo Farming