Well, all I can say is Thank God that is over; harvest 2017 was easily the worst I have ever been involved with. It started off well enough, with the winter barley yielding very nicely at the beginning of June. I was quietly hopeful that this was a sign that the other yields might not be as bad as I had thought. As a result, I predicted it was going to be an average harvest, something which turned out to be a bit of a pipe dream. Towards the end of July the oilseed rape was ready to be cut, and the main block turned out to be just about reasonable, but certainly not good. Unfortunately the bits we moved on to afterwards ranged from terrible through to diabolical – the combination of slugs, flea beetles, pigeons, drought and heat waves really knocked it hard. The wheat yields on our light sandy land nearest the A505 were not much better, although as we moved north the yields did improve quite a lot, surpassing Decent, but never getting all the way to Great. If I were an examiner, the marks for harvest 2017 would go as follows: Winter Barley A, Oilseed Rape D, Wheat C-, Oats B, Spring Barley D, Peas E, Beans C+, Weather E-.
Ah yes, the weather. This is what really compounded the misery. It wasn’t that we had a lot of rain, in fact August was around average wetness. The problem was the constant nature of it, and the grey cloudy conditions almost every day. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting two days for the grain to dry, then just as you are about to start up the combine, it rains again, and it’s back to square one. Still, at least we were finished by the end of August, which is not the case for some of my friends who are still going well into the middle of September and beyond. But it’s done now, and we can move on to next year, which I’m sure will be much better.
After our horrible start to autumn in 2016, when most of our oilseed rape failed in one way or another, this year is looking a lot more promising. We planted the rapeseed as early as possible, starting from the first week of August, and now they look great. This is no guarantee that they will go on to perform well next year, but at least they exist, which is a definite bonus. Soon it will be time to plant the wheat, and a new crop for us as well – Rye – which should find its way into a bread loaf near you sometime in 2018/19. Fingers crossed.