Harvest 2022

20 September 2022

Harvest began with Spring wheat for Scotland the Bread, on 20th August, almost a month earlier than in 2021. The dry spring an heat during July has reduced the yield below our expectations. The plants, under stress have gone from growing leaf and tillerig (thickening) out, to reproductive phase so quickly that there are not enough grain heads.

The Spring oats on the other hand, were fantastic, yielding 6t/ha. This is probably due to the plants natural ability to scavenge for water and nutrients with a deep root structure.

With a sudden change in the settled weather pattern, our final crops of Rye and Barley will be ripe in the next 10 days. So the hope is that the equinox winds due after the 10th September will bring some dry harvesting days.

While our own harvest may be smaller in volume than previous years, the spare capacity in our store and dryer has been put to good use with the crops from some of the other East Neuk Estates farms. Most farms have their own drying and storage facilities, but it makes good sense to concentrate one crop in one site – the simplicity and maximising capacity is clear when we are not trying to store 6 different crops on each farm.

Unlike many farms, we have benefitted from an abundance of grass this year, while we build our livestock numbers. One of our neighbours who was short of grass has lent us his cattle for a few months, relieving pressure on his own pastures and providing us with a few more mouths to eat the grass. As his cattle are high herd health, organic and PFLA, joining of the two herds makes sense.

As we increase our livestock numbers, we are also looking for animals which fit our land. Ewan recently embarked on a trial with Hampshire Down tups and a few ewes for him to breed from. Much like the Lincoln Red, Hampshire Down may not sound like an obvious fit for a farm on the east coast of Scotland – but the breed was developed for its ability to finish from grass alone on the thin soils of the Hampshire Downs. Imagine what it could do here on the fertile soils of Fife.

Earlier in the month seen a trip north to Watten in Caithness, where we have land which is let to farmers, farm our own land and have some of Europe’s largest Blanket Bog designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, it was great to see the progress of our peatland restoration project. Designed to block up the man made drainage channels and re-flood the “Flow Country” the results can already be seen.

Caithness is a county where there are many wind turbines, few trees, vast peat bogs but few people or livestock – somehow the balance of energy, carbon sequestration, food production and population sustainability seem even more confusing…..  At a recent event, we were shown a few sobering slides which show how by the mid 2050 we will have reached peak food and natural resource harvesting, our pollution and our populations will have peaked.

We welcomed Kieran McIntyre who joins us as farm student and Owen Malpeson who joins the estate and forestry team. Both will spend the next year contributing to the Balcaskie team and in return (in addition to being paid)  they will learn how and why we do what we do. There is huge reward for the team and estate, having new enthusiastic young people on their journey to a career in the industry and we hope to do more of this in future.


Share this