The Farming Column: Harvesting and Conservation

harvesting-potatoes-fryton-2014

Harvesting potatoes in a cloud of dust on Stuart Prest’s farm at Fryton

The corn harvest is almost complete, just a few beans still to combine. What wonderful weather we have had for harvest certainly for the second half of it. It makes life so much easier and less costly when the grain comes from the combine dry and needing very little artificial drying. On the whole crops have yielded reasonably well but not outstanding, unfortunately the grain price has plummeted so anyone who didn’t sell the crop forward will be having a hard time.

Autumn is upon us and thoughts have now turned to sowing next years corn crops and harvesting root crops, particularly potatoes, and again there are some very good crops of potatoes this year. Potatoes bruise very easily when being harvested and they really need a cushion of soil to go up the harvester with them so believe it or not a good rain would help enormously.

The shooting season is fast approaching with the pheasant shooting season beginning on the 1st October. We run a shooting syndicate round Slingsby which many local people are involved in. It seems strange but shooting and conservation work very well together. On Castle Farm I grow about 6 acres of grain crops, mainly triticale ( a cross between wheat and rye) and linseed. This provides good feed and cover for game birds but also of course is very good for small birds as well. If you consider that 6 acres of grain will produce about 12 tonnes of seeds that’s an awful lot of bird food. We also carefully monitor the number of partridges in the area as they have been in serious decline in recent years, partly through bad weather but also through an increase in predators like foxes, badgers and carrion crows and a reduction in good nesting sites. I try to help remedy this by sowing 6 metre grass margins, controlling some predators and feeding the birds through harsh winters.

The leaves on the trees are changing colour and already there are some spectacular colours in the woodlands and hedgerows Its been a bumper year for brambles and there are lots of fruit and berries on the trees and hedgerows We shall have plenty to celebrate at our harvest festivals this year.

Stephen Prest


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