We’ve had early harvests before (I’m pretty sure there was one in 1995) but I don’t recall surviving one as easily as this year.
Before congratulating myself too much, it is important to remember that the extraordinary conditions have resulted in fires and the loss of crops and machinery for some people.
But most of us avoided the usual hardships this year. Instead of smashing attempts to cut between showers, we enjoyed long, beautiful days.
I usually triangulate between three weather apps in a vain attempt to have the right machine in the right field when the opportunity presents itself to get a few hours of work done. But this year I even stopped for lunch on a couple of days.
The combine’s operating hours are well below average and the diesel consumption has fallen even further, which is very gratifying in the first year that it cost me more than €1,000 to fill up.
It takes far less energy to move warm, dry material through a machine than it does to move wet, sulking grain and straw.
The wear and tear of the machine is also greatly reduced.
Ditto for balers: my contractor’s bale probe couldn’t even register a moisture reading on barley straw. This very dry straw, together with the extra nutrients found in immature straw from fast-ripening crops, offers buyers a very high quality product this winter.
With every harvest there are problems with grain moisture and often also with temperature. The latter usually comes from heating damp grain in trailers and sheds before it can be taken to a dryer.
With several harvest days in July and August when air temperatures exceeded 30°C, grain came off the combines at closer to 40°C and grain cooling was a new topic of discussion on weighbridges.
Another new topic was the calculation of weight loss as grain moisture dropped into the single-digit percentage range at times.
Who knows when we’ll see this again, but it needs to be factored into future grower-trade agreements.
Unilateral mid-harvest moves to change the terms of trade is no way to do business, and neither is energy levying by one party.
Everyone pays more for energy, but I don’t have the luxury of charging a levy from my diesel or fertilizer suppliers, so I can’t really stand one from my customers.
The soil is exceptionally warm and dry and I have been rolling rape and seeding cover crops for the past week.
Despite the very early harvest, I didn’t feel lucky to sow anything until rain was promised or I was approaching the end of August.
With the heat in the soil, some moisture should get the crop moving quickly, so it will be interesting to see how it compares to a more normal year in three or four weeks.
No harvest is perfect and like everyone else I regret this one. But I think it’s important to celebrate victories and find some satisfaction in a job well done.
Andrew Bergin is a tiller near Athy, Co. Kildare
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/tillage/andrew-bergin-we-deserve-to-bask-in-the-glory-of-a-rare-handy-harvest-41961317.html Andrew Bergin: We deserve to bask in the glory of a rare handy crop