Harvest has got off to a slow and unsettled start on the Black Isle with a mixed bag of weather.

We got a lovely dry five-day period at the start of August which meant a dry day for the Black Isle Show and warm sunny weather for local festival, Belladrum, and more importantly meant we managed to get our swathed oilseed rape combined at 10-12% moisture. We are awaiting uplift of the crop within the next week, so hopefully we'll have an accurate yield once it leaves farm as we haven’t had time to calibrate the yield monitor on the combine before we started cutting.

A few farms in the area have started cutting spring barley, and hopefully we will start cutting ours imminently too.

In my last article I said I was glad we’d decided to put plant growth regulator (PGR) on ‘almost all the spring barley’. I can now report ‘almost all the spring barley’ is standing, but unfortunately the 25ha which didn’t get PGR is not looking so upright after a day of torrential rain on Friday, August 9.

At the time we were applying PGRs, the weather had been cold and wet and later drilled crops were looking stressed, and in some areas dying off, so we decided the last thing they needed was the further stress of a PGR. It certainly wasn’t a cost saving decision as PGR’s like Cerone are cheap and cheerful.

Most of the lodgings have occurred with crops of Diablo, which is a new variety to us and looks to be a big yielder, so in future we will definitely be applying growth regulator to it as standard.

We have been pricing a new tractor for a number of months and decided to go ahead with the purchase at the start of the month. We have ordered a brand new tractor for the first time since 2014, having bought two second hand tractors in between, and have opted for a Massey Ferguson 7719 with a vario transmissions to replace our 2008 Massey Ferguson 6480, which currently has over 11,000 hours on the clock.

Our main tractor, a MF 7624, is the only tractor we have that is fitted with GPS, which means it is often in high demand for the drill, sprayer and fertiliser spreader, and makes things a bit chaotic in the spring time when everything is happening at once. Our intention is to fit a Trimble GPS system to this new tractor so it can be used for the sprayer and fertiliser spreader, and therefore spreading the work load across different tractors. As this tractor will also be almost two tonnes lighter than our other three tractors we have decided to take it on 600/60R30 and 710/60R42 tyres as we are really conscious of compaction, especially the tracks left when Cambridge rolling, so this should hopefully help reduce this issue. We have also opted to take the tractor with a 6000 hour warranty which we feel is well worth the money because no matter what colour they are, they all break down at some point!

FACTfile

Rachel farms at her

family’s 350-hectare

Ballicherry Farm, in

the Black Isle, with

her parents, Brian and

Caroline Matheson. It is

mainly arable, growing

spring barley, wheat and

oilseed rape, though they

also have 150 Texel cross

ewes.