Helen Harris: The harvest is in even if the bad weather stopped us in our tracks

Grain farmer Helen Harris on her farm in Co Kildare
Grain farmer Helen Harris on her farm in Co Kildare
This 1979 Massey Ferguson 135 2WD Tractor made €2,200 at the recent auction of Bord na Móna machinery by Wilsons Auctions at Blackwater, Co. Offaly. Photo: Alf Harvey.
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

Harvest 2019 is all over for us. Although we heard about yield records being broken, we didn't have any record yields. We are happy enough with all crops compared with the drought last year when all our spring crops suffered. This year all crops looked really well during the year, but then when it came to harvest the wet weather stopped us in our tracks.

We waited and waited and realised that we had the risk of sprouting in our winter wheat. When the break in the weather came, Bennington had already sprouted and some of the other varieties weren't too far behind.

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It's heartbreaking to mind a good crop all year only to see it sprout in the last few days before harvest. Luckily, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

The six row winter barley (Funky) came in at 4t/ac and a bushel of 63kph. The two row (Carneval and Cassia) was slightly better at 4.3t/ac and bushel 68kph. The spring barley did 3.6t/ac and because this was after a cover crop, I was disappointed that it didn't have more of a benefit.

We are doing cover crops again this year and we will see if they are worth the expense.

We are only two years into a min-till system in this field, so I expect it will take a few years to get the benefit of the improved soil structure.

The winter wheat was very mixed with Bennington, JB Diego and Costello all around 3.5t/ac.

The difference was that these were not treated with the seed dressing Deter and all were badly affected with barley yellow dwarf virus. Where the disease was very obvious in the field was the worst affected and the worst yield.

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The Graham performed much better at 4.4t/ac.

We were cutting beside the yard which meant that we could keep the dryer going all the time. This was a great help to get all the dried wheat into the shed as soon as possible.

The oil seed rape was a bit disappointing, at 1.72t/ac and we were wondering why. Did we lose a lot of seeds out of the pods in the week before harvest?

Did the wind shake the seeds out during the bad weather? Despite the extendable header, did we lose some during harvest? Did it just not have the yield?

We have next year's crop in and this time we went with a Dekalp variety DKExstar.

Anti-shatter technology

One of the reasons for going with this variety is that they have the anti-shatter technology in the seed to help with the loses of seeds from the pod.

It will be interesting to see if there is any difference.

The thousand grain weight was a lot heavier than normal which to me is a good thing.

Normally its around 5g but this variety it was over 7g. We also put out slug traps and when we noticed the numbers had risen, we went out with a full rate of Axcela slug pellets.

The beans were very low to the ground so had to be cut very tight to the ground.

I was very happy that I had spent a lot of time picking those stones last year, as we never got any into the header.

They yielded 2.53t/ac. After spending on a full spray programme to protect the flowers to maximise pods, I did think they would have yielded slightly better.

Phil thinks he will spray one time less next year, as the damage he did in the tram lines had a detrimental effect on yield.

The cover crop we have sown this year is a mix of phacelia, vetch and buckwheat. We have gone with this mix as it doesn't interfere with the crops we have in our rotation, especially the beans and rape.

We use the break before the spring crops to get a cover crop in and it does help to keep the ground that little bit drier over the winter.

This is also a help in getting the spring crops in a little earlier.

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

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