The Clerk in the Country

Friday 11th August 2023

Bringing in the harvest (slowly)

As I write, the regular thrumming of a combine harvester pervades the village.  Behind the house, in what was once a field of oats there is now a tower of huge rectangular bales, piled up narrow and high so that the smallest possible surface is exposed to the forecast return of rain.  On most of the local arable farms a combine is bowling along through a crop.  The scene resembles harvest as usually portrayed in the media, with machines moving smoothly and serenely across sunlit fields.

The reality in a year like this is rather different.  The hot, dry June encouraged the early ripening of crops, but as July’s rain continued for week after week, “laid” corn threatened to germinate in the field and tangled rape to shed its valuable seeds onto sodden soil.  The weather forecast held out little hope, and farmers have had to seize every possible opportunity to start the harvest as best they could, making decisions on whether to wait and risk losing some of the yield or bring in the crop and incur costs for artificial drying.  Combine harvesters have struggled slowly through tangled stems, drivers concentrating hard to keep the cut at the right height and the machine free of blockage, working on into the night to take advantage of every dry hour.

These few days of sunshine are welcome to us all but to no one more than arable farmers.