Farming feature: Harvest 2013 - every year is different

Robert Rous kneels in a pile of wheat at Dennington Hall Farm with his Cocker Spaniel Alvie.

Robert Rous kneels in a pile of wheat at Dennington Hall Farm with his Cocker Spaniel Alvie. - Credit: Archant

Another harvest safely gathered in.

As Peter Davey, our longest-serving employee, reminded our daughter Laura, who has joined me on the farm this year: “I have been here for 50 years and we have always managed to get the harvest done.”

It has been a great treat for me to have Laura’s help through harvest and I look forward to her gradually taking over the farm.- leaving me more time to devote to the Suffolk Agricultural Association and perhaps even some time with Teresa!

Every year is different in farming – 2012 began with a drought and ended wet while 2013 had a miserable autumn when we were plagued with wet weather, slugs and pigeons, followed by a bitter spring which seems to have caused problems with the sugar beet germination and killed off nearly all our barn owls. The summer has been reasonable if a little too dry but the oil seed rape was still very late which resulted in a late harvest – adding to the pressure of getting the next crop drilled.

Oil seed rape harvested easily and despite the slug and pigeon problem has averaged 4.3t/ha which is reasonable for our small fields but we had trouble waiting for it all to be fit. The Grafton winter wheat was well ready for harvest by the time we began on August 13. This is the 5th season for our New Holland 9090 and we will be changing it after this harvest. A Claas Lexion 780 arrived on Friday, August 16, with its German demonstration team to show us what it could do. Despite the rain on Friday it combined 20 hectares at 21% moisture on Saturday and we all enjoyed a drive and a race with the 9090.

As harvest progressed, and luckily on drier days we had demonstrated both a Case Axial flow 9230 and a New Holland 9080. It is going to be a difficult decision.

After the late start it was wonderful to have good harvesting weather. I have never been to a Test Match and couldn’t resist the temptation to accept an invitation to the Oval for the first day of the 5th Test.

Most Read

With Laura in charge, she had an eventful day with a spark from the combine igniting a field of wheat. Luckily Bob Foster, whose field we were working in was swiftly at the scene with a sprayer, Marcus Smith was summoned with his Challenger and Topdown to cut fire breaks whilst Anthony Branch on the combine managed to keep the combine ahead of the fire. By the time the fire brigade turned up only a small bit of our neighbour’s hedge was still burning. After the years since the stubble burning ban we have become less prepared for stubble fires. But men and machines were safe and not too much damage done.

Fire was a constant worry after this but we managed to finish harvest with the combine intact despite some scares.

We finally finished on Sept 6 after some long hours and hard work from all the team.- both combining and cultivating. The first wheats had clearly been hit by the drought and while a number of fields turned in a yield of over 11t/ha the average was 10.2 from Grafton, 10.5 from Oakley and 10.7 from Santiago. The second wheats had been ‘mauled’ in during late October and yet managed a creditable 9.0t/ha average over 122 hectares.

Spring beans clearly suffered badly from the drought yielding 4.1 t/ha when we usually expect least.

As I write this on September 10, we have had our own seed dressed, the oilseed rape is all drilled and is enjoying the rain, all the land coming in to wheat has been cultivated and we plan to start drilling wheat at the end of the week. 2014 harvest will not be too far away but in the meantime it will soon be time for the SAA Farm Competition evening at Trinity Park on October 24 and to see who has won this year!