In this month’s column BEN BOOTHMAN, from Arable Advisor, in Pickering, has one eye on the weather as the harvest gets under way in Ryedale

WELL it’s been a couple of months now since my last article and for that I must apologise, where has the time gone? In usual fashion I feel the need to start by mentioning the weather.

We started off with summer in February, a brief spell of spring in May, back to summer in late June, closely followed by autumn in July and winter in August. I say winter as at the time of writing it is currently 8°C with rain outside the office window, I must remind myself it is August.

I would like to thank all those that came and enjoyed a beer and a bun with me on the Arable Advisor stand at the Ryedale Show.

Despite the early efforts of the weather to spoil the day, the sun finally shone and from what I could see it looked like one of the busiest shows to date. This is great for the countryside and promoting everything rural.

Harvest is well under way in the Ryedale, albeit at a snail’s pace. Despite the catchy weather conditions, spirits on farms are still high.

To date most of the oilseed rape and winter barley has now been gathered up and many have made a start in winter wheat.

Oilseed rape yields have been varied, those that survived the onslaught from flea beetle and pollen beetle seemed to have yielded well with an average of around 4.2t/ha while those that didn’t aren’t worth mentioning.

Winter barleys again have performed well with many conventional two-row varieties filling the trailers, as well as the hybrids and yields of 10t/ha have been frequent on farm results…. not just pub talk.

Straw has also been plentiful, that is if you have managed to get it picked up. Big swaths take longer to dry, and on many occasions as soon as I left the field with the haybob the bright blue skies closed, and deluges of rain gave a helping hand in making sure every stick of straw was wet.

There is a similar pattern forming here with the wheats as well, many are reporting extremely good yields some of the highest I have heard of for many years, 12-13t/ha is a frequent result.

These are particularly impressive considering there are a many crops dotted around the countryside that suffered from the heavy rain and typhoons throughout July and in places have gone flat, this won’t be too much of a worry as we know Yorkshire has the country’s best combine drivers.

Current wheat prices have dropped, however, the higher than average yields should help compensate a little for this.

Even though the rain has slowed harvest it has encouraged many into thinking of sowing oilseed rape. Last year’s experiences suggested early sowing was the best option and some growers are opting for the first half of August.

I must stress though that sowing date effects vary from year to year and we don’t want to claim any magic remedy anyway. If you plan is to sow early check the emerging crop for aphids as well as flea beetle. Early-emerging crops are likely to attract summer populations of aphids and early infections of turnip yellows virus can have significant yield effects.

Whenever the crop is sown, early nitrogen and phosphate is essential in the flea beetle campaign to get the crop growing as soon as possible. This should be available as soon as the crop emerges at the latest – the earlier the better.

Pest threats are also having a knock-on effect in the choice of herbicide control, pre-emergence programmes are less commonly used mainly due to the fact we want to see a crop before we spend the money but also certain herbicides can slow down crop emergence which is not ideal when trying to overcome flea beetle. An early post emergence herbicide mix is now the favoured approach.

The farming industry cares greatly for the environment and I came across an interesting fact the other day so here it is, “If you put all the UK’s hedges together, they would circle the earth 20 times”. With many growers voluntarily entering into agricultural environment schemes this will continue to grow.

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