Combines are go with a great break in the weather
Winter wheat and oilseed rape were harvested at about the same time around the 8th of August. Normally, the rape is 2-3 weeks earlier. The very wet autumn led to a slug epidemic and that was then followed by cold wet slow growing conditions over a very long winter. Consequently at lot of crops have had to be patched up leading to very patchy harvest.
The combines can catch up given good conditions. The capacity of the equipment is incredible and catching them whilst working is like storm chasing, especially if you are on foot. They are soon finished and have moved out of the area.
You walk past ripened crops as you go into work and come home past empty harvested fields with not a soul left in sight. The harvesting gang are somewhere else, typically away in the middle distance.
I’ve been bathed in lovely evening skies made of dramatic clouds and low setting suns in the early evening. The autumnal suns are increasingly low in the sky when I commute before and after work. This makes for spectacular skies and some great shadows.
Thanks to my wife Stephanie for the work on a few collages. The yellow flowering plant is the evening primrose, which grows semi-wild when not grown commercially.
The straw is being rolled up fast
With the delayed conditions comes a swift turn around with the straw rapidly rolled up and carted to storage. In my formative years the straw would have been baled up into small rectangular bales and to a great extent handled by hand. Big or small bales are very architectural on the landscape with great aesthetics possible.
There is an equine straw and hay yard along my walk and they are just getting into some neat kite-scare crows. Birds can damage the plastic wrapping of the haylage bales leading to spoilage.
Late crops starting to ripen
Top left going clockwise we have spring barley, bearded wheat, field beans, and spring oilseed rape. As best shown by the spring rape the spring crops grow quickly and are often shorter and less bushy than their winter sown counterparts. They are lower yielding, but demand less inputs. The spring sowing can give farmers the chance to deal with autumn germinating weeds over winter, preventing their numbers from building up in the crop rotation. Spring sown crops are not any less hardy than the winter sown, but they don’t need a period of cold to vernalise and initiate flowering and seeding.
Spring oilseed rape is rarely seen outside of Scotland and is a reminder of how difficult the conditions were last summer/autumn. Overall instead of <5% of spring planted crops in this area there are nearer 20%, including bits of patched up winter sown fields.
Cultivation tackle is lined up to go
From now until late October the race is on to work the ground ready for new crops to go in. With ground taking a lot of damage in the recent wet year it is likely that farmers will need to work extra hard with sub soiling and ploughing (see green new plough) otherwise quick surface cultivations (see orange equipment) will suffice.
Outside of a showroom I’ve never seen a brand new plough. the curved mouldboards and skims will soon be bright steel as they go about turning the flow of soil over.