As I write this, we have completed nearly three quarters of harvest, but the weather is looking pretty rainy for the foreseeable future, so it is unclear when the end will actually come. All that is left is four days of wheat harvest, and although we have not had to fire up the grain drier since 2017, I am fairly certain that run is about to come to an end.
Harvest started in the middle of July, with oilseed rape, as is the normal way. The first field we cut, HC 8, behind our grainstore, was one of the single worst fields I have ever seen. The edges were reasonable, but the middle was just terrible. The main problem was that we had a severe infestation of flea beetle larvae, which had eaten out the middle of almost every stem in the field, stopping the plants from developing properly – a particular problem in a year like this when water was very scarce. That field ended up yielding just over one tonne per hectare, and several others also had yields starting with a one. The solitary field we had which had looked really good all year managed a yield of over three tonnes to the hectare, and luckily it was also the biggest field of rapeseed on the farm. The final average yield of 2.12t/ha is almost exactly half of what we managed in 2018. Not a great year.
As I’ve known for quite some time, our pea harvest was also terrible, stemming firstly from an unknown problem with establishing the plants – whole areas of the fields were bare, but also from the lack of rain, as peas are particularly susceptible to drought. The other spring crops, oats and barley, were not too bad considering the season, managing roughly 5t/ha.
Wheat has been a mixed bag, but generally disappointing. The lighter end of the farm, near the A505, has performed as expected, with yields around 6-7t/ha, whereas some heavier land in Barrington has reached almost 11t/ha. We still have the middle section of the farm to harvest, but I am expecting an average yield somewhere in the low 8 tonnes per hectare. There has been one high point of harvest ’19 – a big field of beans in Barrington, which has broken our farm record, and yielded just under 6t/ha. This shows that heavier land, and a later crop which was able to make use of the late rains, was capable of.
The other notable thing about harvest this year occurred on July 21st, when I died in the middle of the night. Luckily for me a combination of my wife’s excellent CPR skills, the first responders, paramedics, and doctors at Addenbrookes and Royal Papworth meant I was back at work about 10 days later. If you Google “david walston cambridge news”, you can read all about it.