The culmination and reward for the fantastic summer of weather was reflected in our local harvest, with above average yields, straw baled in great condition, and most of the machinery backed into its resting place by early September.
It is a long time since we had a similar year, and it invokes those rose-tinted memories of childhood harvests, when false reminiscences can only recall sunshine and dust.
However, the similarities end with grain and straw – everything else has changed beyond recognition, especially the scale of operations. Eight-foot headers, small square balers and 4t trailers have been superseded by gigantic machinery.
This is best referenced by using my 8t barley trailer as a working example. I strongly suspect it is the smallest trailer to dump grain in the local buyer’s yard. Indeed, one of the days I was there, a 20t monster reversed in and disgorged its load, while I hung my head in shame.
There comes a stage when you just have to admit to yourself that things have moved on, and you are caught in a time warp from sometime around the turn of the century (perhaps it’s time for me to join the local vintage club).
On a practical level, my spring barley yielded 2.7t per acre at 15% moisture, and almost eight 4x4 round bales. The drought conditions of May and June didn’t negatively affect yields, although this heavy, worn field would prefer dry weather over a wet summer anyway.
A fair amount of spring barley in this corner of the country follows vegetables, and there are numerous reports of the 3t barrier being crossed, and on occasion, by a distance.
The variety I used was Planet. It was sown in early April, and the agronomists will no doubt attribute the healthy yield to the Prothioconazole/Bixafen fungicide mixture, applied at third node.
This potent combination undoubtedly played its part, but the secret ingredient had less to do with modern science, and more to do with Mother Nature. The old expression from the days of my grandfather, that ‘it takes sunshine to fill the pickle’ has never seemed more relevant.
I don’t know if global warming and a thinning ozone layer translates into more sunshine, but if it does, then this impending environmental catastrophe might be viewed as something of a double-edged sword by some of our less eco-aware farmers. (Please don’t tell the environmentalists I even mentioned such a thing).
On the nutrition front, autumn-applied poultry litter was beefed up by 50 units per acre of nitrogen in the seedbed, and another 35 units applied as a top dressing.
Anxiety and stress
The prolonged, settled spell of weather does far more good than merely facilitating a swift harvest clearance because there is a deeper process going on inside the heads of all those involved at harvest time.
Whether you grow 7ac, 70ac, or 700ac, there is some level of anxiety and stress until that grain has been harvested and the straw baled.
I suspect it’s some sort of primeval emotion linked to the hunter-gatherer section in our brains, because it is fairly illogical, and yet everyone feels a huge sense of release when all is safely gathered in.
It is different from selling the last of the lambs or beef cattle, and I’ve talked to others who feel the same way. And whether your stress levels are low, moderate, or through the roof as harvest approaches, one thing is for certain, if we could guarantee a month’s glorious weather at this time of year, our farming life would be a heck of a lot simpler.