Harvest has been very odd, just like the rest of the season. Our plantings of winter cereals were much lower than planned, due to the wet autumn. In the spring we decided to plant lots and lots of oats. The dry spring impacted on crops too. We started harvest much sooner than usual, with winter barley. Our beans really suffered this year, and we harvested those straight after the barley, around 6 weeks earlier than usual. The oilseed rape came off relatively well at Leeds. Wheat yields are poor and the National Farmers Union think 2020 is the lowest yielding year since the 1980s. We definitely don’t have our usual grain storage problems.
But bringing the crops in early has allowed us to get on with preparations for next year. We aim to always have living roots in the ground, so we plant a catch or cover crop to grow and harvest the energy of the sun, and put carbon into the ground, within 24 hours of harvest. We usually plant a mix of nitrogen fixing plants such as clover and vetch, with mustard, radish, buckwheat and maybe some oats. This helps protect the soil in case of extreme weather, whether it be heat, or rain – we’ve had both those in August! Oilseed rape will be the first cash crop to be planted. It’s a fine balancing act between waiting for the flea beetles to go away, and planting soon enough that the plants will be strong to get through winter. Many farmers are abandoning oilseed rape as a crop in the UK. Cross fingers we get it right!
We have baled straw this year. We usually chop the straw (the stalks from wheat, barley and oats) and spread it on the land, but as the amount of crop in the barn is so low, we decided to bale the straw so that we can sell it. This will also help livestock farmers locally, and further away, as there’s a shortage of forage for the animals for winter.