Farmer Focus: Tricky borage harvest and triple-purpose maize

August seemed to be an extra-long month this year, mainly because harvest was completed early, and we were waiting for rain before getting on with land work.

We did try a bit of soil loosening in the dry conditions, but had a few issues with the low-disturbance subsoiler. We were only going in about 8in, “topsoiling”, because that is all that is required.

However, we started running out of shear bolts and there were cracks appearing on the welds for the leg-mounting brackets.

See also: Maize Watch 2022: Advice for a safe maize harvest

About the author

Christy Willett

Arable Farmer Focus writer

Christy Willett farms with son Hew on 475ha at Parklands Farm, Galleywood, Essex, growing combinable crops alongside diversifications into horse stables on DIY livery, industrial and office lets. She is the chair of the Essex NFU.

A few millimeters of rain helped enormously. Tight land has been loosened and cover crops drilled and starting to grow in the warm and moist conditions.

A mix of beans, mustard and buckwheat has gone in on land destined for borage.

This year’s borage – as we expected – was a tricky crop to harvest. Being short and thin due to lack of rain, it was a tall order to swath it into a nice row that would sit up for our Draper header.

It is frustrating to leave crops in the field worth more than £3,000/t, but it just wasn’t possible to collect it all. Thanks to Hew’s skills on the combine we ended up with an average of 280kg/ha, which we are content with.

At one point in early summer, we weren’t sure we would have a crop at all. And hooray, for the first time of growing it, I didn’t have the slow and painful job of drying the borage.

Looking over the hedge at crops of maize in Essex now is a bit sobering. Crops just haven’t had enough rain.

Husband Charlie has a maize maze at his garden center, which is a great attraction over the school holidays.

Being just a few acres, it doesn’t normally get too much attention from anyone who might need maize, but this year it has been snapped up to go to an anaerobic digester plant.

A strip of it will be left for his brother Alan’s game birds too, so I call that a triple-purpose crop.

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