Beans don’t like a dry summer and beans don’t like a wet summer. In fact, I don’t know what sort of a year they like and I don’t think they know themselves. They certainly didn’t like this year, which was very favourable for all the other crops, but not for them.
Despite good early establishment and looking promising all season, they didn’t yield well. While we’re not quite finished yet, the average yield is only around 2.30t/ac, which is disappointing.
But beans are like that. They do disappointment well and are an unreliable crop. More research work needs to be done to try to establish why this is so. Though they’re still a useful break crop, but inferior to oilseed rape.
With that said, the soil tills up nicely after beans, with no slugs, if you can ignore all the volunteers they produce in the following wheat. In-vogue companion cropping? Eh, no thanks, not for me.
However, for all of that, we’ve been growing beans for years now and we’ll remain with them, but the price and yield need to improve. They really need to be north of €250/t (which ours aren’t) to be attractive. Without the protein payment supplement, they’d be a dead loss.
As it is for the potato growers, the loss of diquat to burn them off will be a problem. Like Jack and his Beanstalk, beans are of indeterminate growth and can continue growing with no intention of ripening, especially in a warm night-and-day autumn like this has been so far.
On the other hand, the spring oilseed rape was pleasing. It was a joy to combine and yielded a satisfying 1.45t/ac at around 12% moisture. OK, not nearly as high-yielding as winter oilseed rape or as financially attractive but successful establishment is easier with no slug or flea beetle or pigeon problems. It’s also significantly cheaper to grow than winter rape but weed control is a bit short of options and, without care, can be a dirty crop.
I’m always relieved when the harvest is over. I become weary of watching the dew lift and fall, of a life completely dictated and determined by the weather forecast and the moisture meter, of time lost to breakdowns and the level of stress that all this can bring about.
And, of course, weary of being on continual standby lest you miss an opportunity. I never look forward to harvest and live in its shadow but once I’m on the combine and moving, I’m fine. I don’t do waiting and watching.
As harvests go, this was an easy one, with the rare and elusive trinity of good yields, good weather and good prices. I say good yields, yes, they were and I’m grateful but no records were broken or indeed anything approaching it.
And so our thoughts return to the fields, of doing it all again and with no idea of what next year will bring. I love the autumn, but don’t have a lot of time to really enjoy it. That seems to be reserved until retirement, which is a pity.
Retirement and the health to enjoy it cannot be taken for granted and may never happen. A wise farming neighbour who has a nice lakeshore holiday house in the west once told me you need to avail of these things when you are younger and not reserve them for older age.
However it is, of course, certainly pleasurable working the fields and sowing seed in good autumnal weather. There’s probably nothing nicer and it may be me at my happiest. But can there be much more of this lovely weather left?