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.
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?