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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Combine is warming up ready for action!!

The Combine is warming up ready for action!!
The harvest is looming fast on the horizon; you may have noticed some activity on the farms around you as farmers are out with their sprayers and swathers. The Oil seed rape has set seed and the seeds are coming into early full maturity, to speed the ripening process and help with harvest timings the rape plant needs to be killed so the sun can dry it quicker.  
This can be done either by spraying it off with Roundup or by swathing a process of cutting the plant without thrashing the seed off it. Roundup is our preferred method as it will kill the plant and all the weeds (if any!!); we know when to spray by inspecting the crop. Once the seeds in the pods halfway up the plant are turning colour from green to brown to black we will be going in with the sprayer. The sprayer will have a mix of Glyphosate (Roundup) the broad spectrum herbicide to kill the plants, a water conditioner to help the plant to absorb the herbicide and a product called PodStick. PodStick is basically organic glue that coats the pods to keep them in tack as the plant dries out. It is a sort of safety product for us as farmers, Oil seed rape is very delicate once it is close to combining and the smallest of vibration from wind, rain or HALE will cause the seed to shed and fall on to the ground. As the plant dies and dries the pods become brittle as it shrinks and cracks, the PodStick just prevents this from happening and pod skin becomes more leathery than brittle. When you have put all your years’ effort into producing a high quality crop then you don’t want pound coins falling to the floor before the combine. Hale can be a huge problem and can strip crops off all their seed if a particularly harsh storm goes through the farm some people in know storm areas actually insure there high value crops against hale damage, an expensive process but in some case very necessary.
The Roundup will be applied and will need to be left for 14 days minimum before harvest. The moisture of the crops needs to be down below 10% at harvest to help with safe storage and easy combining. The straw will be chopped and incorporated back into the soil and soon after harvest our new cultivator will be sent in to mix the chopped straw and break up the soil to create a stale seed bed which will mean that any shed rape seed will germinate along with weeds like Black grass that then can be controlled before we drill the winter wheat in September.
The Grass seed crops are turning quickly with the 30+ degree heat; the weekend looks to be set fair so the grass may be ready for combining beginning of next week! This will be done with our specialist combine header, our Shelbourne Reynolds Stripper header is basically a giant hover attachment for our combine. Instead of cutting the plants close to the ground the stripper header has fingers that rotate quickly and literally pulls or strips the seed off the top of the plant and the air vacuum created by the rotation sucks the seed into the combine. When we combined our grass direct with our older previous two combines the knife struggled to cut the damp grass and then the combine struggled even more to thrash all the grass stalks going through it. With the new combine changing two to one we had to go down the Shelbourne Reynolds Stripper header route and we have not looked back. With the same area as what took us eight days difficult combining with two machines cutting direct into the crop only took us three and a half days with one machine and the new header. This saved us time, fuel and wearing parts as the combine insides are working at 15% capacity due to most of the stalks being left attached in the field. This also help with the hay crop that we take after the combine as due to the wet harvest in the last two years all the hay would have been lost in the field if we had not had the new header. The new header leaves it standing in the field and is more weather tolerant so we can pick our break in the weather to mow, tedder, rake and bale the stalks to make good hay with more control.
Harvest is a stressful but satisfying time of year, the hours are long normally 7am till sometimes 2am in the morning depending on the weather pressure. We do and try and consider all our neighbours and local residents by not combining close to houses late at night and picking days when the wind blows away from houses and full washing lines! But please also consider your local farmer, we are flying about as our years work comes to fruition. Please be patient and careful on the little country lanes as we will be in return. Tractors can be pulling heavy full trailers that need to be kept on the road and need to be kept moving as the combine in the field covers the ground so quickly, so please if you meet a tractor or see one coming in the distance please find a safe passing place and pull over so that we can squeeze past, don’t force us on to the verge as that is when accidents occur as verges give way or we hit a drainage gully which throws us off balance. If you are stuck behind a tractor remember if you can’t see our mirrors then we can’t see you! We will not hold you up for long and will always thank you for your cooperation with a smile and friendly wave.
We are stocking up on coffee and Red Bull, in desperate times in the early hours we may have to resort to making coffee with Red Bull, but fingers crossed all goes well this harvest and all with be safely gathered in. If you’re out walking or driving give us a wave, stop and have a chat if we don’t look too stressed just to make sure we are not asleep at the wheel!! BWB

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