Harvest Update

Harvest on the farm is now progressing rapidly after a slow start.  The initial problems have been travelling with the combine, which has been sinking in the saturated soil.  The solution to this problem has been to source a set of flotation ‘terra’ tyres and fit them to the combine.  Terra tyres have been trading at a premium over recent weeks and long waiting lists have been quoted for new wheel assemblies.  Luckily we knew of a neighbour who had a set that they weren’t using so all we had to do was get some wheel centres manufactured by a local engineering firm (£160 for the pair on Saturday morning) and we could get the wheels onto the combine.  The other choice would have been to add dual wheels to the existing standard combine wheels, however this can put excess stress on the hubs and is more likely to result in a broken wheel hub/axle.  The new tyres have proved useful as the combine has been able to travel along the heavy land fields, although they are still not providing sufficient carrying capacity on the saturated sand land.

Tomorrow will see the last couple of acres of winter barley finished, but we still have 16 acres of oilseed rape left to harvest.  The early drilled wheat is ‘fit’ and so tomorrow we will decide whether to try the rape again or go to the wheat.  The rape is most at risk of been lost to shedding as it has been ripe for sometime now, whereas the wheat is only just ready for harvesting and so would not come to any harm for a week or so.

Silage fields are now dry enough to cut, but the mower is currently having bearings replaced which were damaged by the floods.  Hopefully the mower will be ready by the time we have a window inbetween cereals harvest to make the silage.

On a slightly more embarrassing note, what I have failed to mention in this harvest report is what we have been busy doing this morning.  Last night at about 6pm I was driving the combine when I did the thing that all combine drivers fear most – I hit a tree with the unloading spout (the bit that sticks out of the side of the combine to transfer grain into the trailers).  It was the last strip of the field along a hedge side and I was concentrating on the pool of water/wet hole and the likelihood of bogging down, but unfortunately this had distracted my concentration away from the fact that the spout was in the out position and that I was going the wrong way round the field.  There was a huge bang and the emptying auger shaft was bent and the tube was broken back in one place and dented in several others, just when the sun was shinning and the newly aquired terra tyres were doing their bit.  The quote for a new one was in excess of £3,000, and although we are technically insured we decided to try and repair the damage, as after the recent floods we thought the insurance company may not be too receptive to our latest accident!  After some inventive engineering, grinding, bashing and welding by my brother until late on Monday night and then again on Tuesday morning, the repair was successful and we were back to the field by 2.30pm.  Needless to say that news of this sort spreads rapidly around the neighbours and we had several visitors today to see how the repair was going (or more likely they came to wind me up!)

My day started at 6.30am with spraying potatoes to protect against blight, helping repair the combine spout and then at 3.30pm I started round baling 29 acres of straw which I got finished at about 8.20pm.  One of the belt joiners on the baler has started to rip and so that must now be repaired.

Next job – SLEEP !

Written By Stephen @ Farming Friends

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The Combine Harvester

Combine Harvester 

Our combine harvester is working very hard at the moment. It has been harvesting;

and will soon be harvesting

When the combine harvester leaves the farm yard I am always reminded of the Combine Harvester Song by The Wurzels.

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Oilseed Rape Harvest In The Rain

The Harvest
The oilseed rape became ripe earlier in the week and on Tuesday the sun broke through the clouds and we were able to begin harvesting the crop. Unfortunately all the heavy rain over the past few weeks has meant that the soil is so waterlogged that the combine harvester is unable to travel on the soil without bogging down and becoming stuck. We have managed to harvest about 5 acres out of a total of 30, but we are unable to travel on the rest of the fields. This is heartbreaking, especially as oilseed rape is so vulnerable to shedding the seed if it is not harvested soon after it becomes ripe. We have had to ask a neighbouring farmer to come with his combine as it is equipped with extra wide tyres which may travel more easily across the soil without the machine bogging down. When the rain stops and the sunshine returns we will be hoping that this machine will be capable of harvesting our oilseed rape. The pods of the rape plant are very delicate and brittle and a sudden rain storm or high winds can cause the seeds to be lost.

It is difficult to assess how the crop is yielding, but we suspect that we are getting about 1.9 tonnes per acre. This is a very pleasing yield of oilseed rape and with the market price approaching 200/tonne, financial performance will be good if we can get the remainder harvested.

DEFRA Regulations
There is a DEFRA regulation that stipulates that farmers must not undertake field operations if the soil is waterlogged, so as not to damage the soil structure. DEFRA have issued a derogation to this regulation just before harvest so that farmers are able to harvest their crops without falling foul of this rule. This regulation has been in place since 2005, but it is the first time that the derogation has been granted country wide. It would seem to me that an overpaid official has been remunerated by taxpayers to make up a rule that has now been waivered when the soil conditions have indeed become waterlogged. Previously, the regulation has remained firmly in place when the ground conditions have become waterlogged, but now the soil has become extremely waterlogged DEFRA feel that it is OK to temporarily remove the regulation. I feel that the regulation is being implemented in a manner which can only damage the resource (the soil) that it aims to protect.

Farmers always prefer to undertake field operations in good dry conditions so as to protect their most important asset – the soil. At times it does becomes necessary to work the land and harvest the crops in unsuitably wet conditions. I will leave you with the question – is this regulation really necessary and is it working?

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Oilseed Rape Harvest

The oilseed rape harvest is approaching here on the farm. Normally the crop is ‘swathed’. This is where a machine cuts the crop and lays it back down on the ground in rows with the seed pods intact. The rape is swathed approximately 2 weeks before the combine harvester comes along and picks up the swath and then separates the oilseeds from the pods and straw.

The problem we have encountered this year is related to the wet ground conditions caused by the heavy rains in the latter part of June. It is so waterlogged in the fields that the rape swathers (which look like mini combine harvesters) cannot travel on the fields without getting bogged down in the muddy soil. Another problem with swathing in these conditions is that in places there is water standing in pools on the soil surface which would rot/decompose the rape as it lies in the swath. As a result many farmers are adopting a different approach to the oilseed rape harvest this year. Instead of swathing, the rape crops are been dessicated with a chemical to kill the plant and help create an even ripening of the seeds. The crop will then be harvested by direct cutting with a combine harvester. The rape crop develops into a tangled mass of plant material which can cause problems with the combine and so it is necessary to fit side knives to the front of the machine. These knives are mounted vertically to cut through the tangled plant stems as the combine works its way forward along the field. Demand for side knives has been high and it is now nearly impossible to buy one as all the stockists have sold out.

On our farm we have a 3 foot side knife that we use for harvesting beans, but we have doubted weather or not it will cope with the tall rape crop. After telephoning several machinery supply companies (who had all sold out of new knives) we eventually found a second hand knife which is in need of some repair but importantly it is 4′ long and so it is currently been sent by a parcel company from a farmer in Kent.

Direct cutting the rape will be a new experience for us here so we keep our fingers crossed that the machinery will be able to perform the task without too many seed losses.

Silage Making Time

Silage Bales 

The farmers on our farm are busy silage making at the moment.

On Sunday the field of grass was cut and left to wilt in the field. Today (Wednesday) the grass was baled and then collected from the field and wrapped in the farm yard so that the grass can become silage.

Bales on trailerBale on TeleporterWrapping BaleWrapping BaleWrapping BaleBale on TeleporterBale on TeleporterSilage Bales

When I arrived home this afternoon, I was asked if I could help with the silage making. My job was to drive the teleporter to the field and then drive the tractor and trailer up the field whilst my husband loaded the trailer with the bales. Last year I had a go at wrapping the bales and no doubt in the coming weeks I will be asked to help out with this job again. Although a lot of farmers find wrapping bales very boring, (I know my brother-in-law does) I enjoy it, it makes a change from teaching!

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The Potato Crisp – From Farm to Packet

What Are Potato Crisps?

Potato crisps are a snack made from potatoes. The potatoes are peeled, washed, sliced and then fried in vegetable oil before they become potato crisps.

The Journey From Seed Potato To Potato Crisp

  1. Field Preparation – The fields are prepared for potato planting. They are ploughed and then fertiliser is applied. Then the field is cultivated using a bed tiller followed by a declodder/destoner.
  2. Purchase & Delivery – The seed potato is bought or delivered to the farm.
  3. Planting – The seed potato is put in the potato planter and planted in the fields.
  4. Fields Treated – The weeds are treated before the potato plants emerge.
  5. Plants Treated – The potato plants are treated to prevent blight.
  6. Irrigation – Through dry weather the potato plants are irrigated.
  7. Harvest – The potatoes are harvested from the ground.
  8. Grading – The potatoes are graded so that mud, weeds, stones as well as mis-shaped, small or rotten potatoes can be removed.
  9. Transportation To Factory – Lorries transport the graded potatoes to the crisp factory.
  10. Quality Check -The potatoes and all the other ingredients (vegetable oil and flavourings) used to make crisps are checked for quality.
  11. Storage – If the potatoes are not used straight away, then they are stored in controlled temperatures and humidity to keep them in good condition.
  12. Grading & Washing – When it is time to use the potatoes, they are graded and washed.
  13. Peeling – The washed potatoes are then peeled in a rotating drum which has a rough surface.
  14. Quality Check – Once peeled the potatoes pass along a conveyor belt for visual checking and any substandard potatoes are removed.
  15. Slicing – The potatoes are then sliced into very thin slices about 1.27mm thick. The blades in the slicing machine are changed regularly to keep them accurate and sharp.
  16. Washing – The thin potato slices are washed by jets of water to remove starch from their surfaces to prevent the slices from sticking together.
  17. Cooking – The potato slices move on a conveyor belt to large cookers where the slices are cooked in vegetable oil.
  18. Quality Check – A camera checks the colour of the crisps after cooking and crisps which are too dark or too pale are rejected.
  19. Flavourings – The crisps pass through a rotating flavour drum where  they are lightly sprinkled with salt or other flavourings. The rotating drum makes sure that the crisps are covered evenly.
  20. Primary Packaging – The crisps are fed from a conveyor belt into a hopper and automatically weighed into portions. The packets are formed from a reel of packaging film. The crisps drop into the open packets which are then sealed.
  21. Quality Check – The packets of crisps are checked to see if they weigh the correct amount and that the packets are sealed properly. A detector checks for foreign bodies in the packets.
  22. Date Stamping – Each packet of crisp is stamped with a special code as well as a best before date. The special code allows the manufacturer to trace when the crisps were made which is particularly useful if there is a problem with the crisps.
  23. Secondary Packaging – The packets of crisps are packed into cardboard boxes and then stamped with a best before date. This secondary packaging protects the crisps during transportation.
  24. Loading – The boxes of crisps are stacked onto pallets ready for loading onto the lorries.
  25. Transportation & Delivery – The crisps are transported by lorry and delivered to distribution depots, shops or supermarkets.

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Planting Potatoes

March and April is always potato planting time on our farm. We normally finish planting the seed potatoes by Good Friday so that my husband can participate in the Good Friday tradition in our area – watching the rugby in our local town.

Planting Seed Potatoes Planting Seed Potatoes Planting Seed Potatoes

This year the seed potato didn’t arrive on time so the planting was put back a week. Thankfully the weather stayed fine and all the seed potatoes are now in the ground. Let’s hope that the weather is as good to us at harvest time in October!

What Do Plants And Crops Need To Grow?

  • Plants and crops are living organisms.
  • Crops are specific plants that are grown in a vegetable patch, allotment or field.
  • Plants and crops need certain conditions in order to grow.

What Do Plants And Crops Need To Grow?

  • Sunlight
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Water (H2O)
  • Nutrients
  • Correct Temperature

Plants and crops absorb water (H2O) through their roots.

This water (H2O) absorption is the means by which plants and crops gather nutrients from the soil.

Temperature can affect the levels of water (H2O) absorption and nutrient intake.

Photosynthesis it the process by which plants and crops make their food using sunlight, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Photosynthesis takes place in the leaf cells (chloroplasts).

The leaf cells (chloroplasts) contain a green pigment (chlorophyll) that absorbs energy from the sunlight.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air enters the leaves through the leaves (stomata).

This intake of carbon dioxide (CO2) is called respiration.

The absorbed energy (sunlight) is used to break up the carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) molecules to produce sugar glucose and oxygen (O2).

The sugar feeds the plants and crops and helps them to grow.

The system of veins in the leaves and stem allows the sugar glucose to travel to all parts of the plants and crops.

Oxygen (O2) is also produced during photosynthesis.

Oxygen (O2) is a waste product and is released into the air via the leaves (stomata).

This release of oxygen (O2) is known as respiration.

Photosynthesis Colouring Sheet

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Potatoes

 

irrigating-potatoes.jpg
  • Potatoes are mainly grown for human consumption.
  • Potatoes are now part of the British staple diet.
  • The market price of potatoes fluctuates according to supply and demand.
  • Potatoes are put in storage to meet the demand for year round potatoes.
  • They are susceptible to frost and must be stored in insulated buildings to keep them in good condition.
  • Potatoes are a root crop.
  • Growers need to irrigate their potato crops since this plant is very susceptible to drought.
  • This crop must be rotated and only grown in a field once in every seven years due to a soil borne pest called potato cyst nematode.
  • Blight is another disease which can ruin the potato crop and growers use fungicides to protect their crop from blight.
  • This disease caused the Irish Potato famine of 1845 to 1850.
  • Potatoes are a versatile food which can be cooked in a variety of ways.
  • They can be roasted, boiled, baked, mashed or fried.
  • Potatoes can also be processed into crisps, frozen chips or roasties, instant mash or canned new potatoes. 

The Potato Crop

The potato crop is produced in four batches;

  1. First earlies.
  2. Second earlies.
  3. Early maincrop.
  4. Late maincrop.

Earlies

  • Earlies are more commonly known as new potatoes.
  • Some earlies are imported from warmer climates.
  • Earlies are planted in February/March and harvested between late May and August.

 Maincrop

  • Maincrop potatoes are planted in April and harvesting continues throughout September and October.
  • Types of maincrop potatoes are Maris Piper, Desiree, King Edward and Pentland Dell.
  • Most maincrop potatoes are stored inorder to meet the demand for potatoes all year round.

Tractor Ted Grows Potatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barley

  • Barley is a cereal crop.
  • It is a strain of grass that is cultivated and harvested for it’s grain.
  • There are many different varieties of barley, some are sown in the Spring and some in the Autumn.
  • Spring sown barley is known as Spring barley and is harvested in early August.
  • Autumn sown barley is known as Winter barley and is harvested in mid July.
  • Winter barley is higher yielding than Spring barley. 
  • Barley is grown for it’s high food value for animals.
  • The energy content of barley is lower than that of wheat.
  • An ear of barley has long spikes on it known as awns.
  • When the barley crop is ripe the ear points towards the ground.
  • A barley ear contains an average of 30 grains.
  • Barley is used mainly for malting and as animal feed.
  • Malting is the process where barley grain is germinated, converting the starch into maltose sugar.
  • This sugar is then used in brewing and distilling to produce alcohol.
  • Barley used for malting must be low in protein. The grower achieves this by controlling nitrogen fertiliser input.
  • High protein barley is used as animal feed for pigs and cattle.
  • Barley used for human consumption is dehusked to get rid of the fibre and sold as pearl barley or as a breakfast cereal.

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