Harvest is one of the most busy and stressful times of year on any arable farm. With new people on the farm, temperamental kit and long hours to contend with (not to mention the weather!) it pays to be prepared.
Here are our top 7 tips to help your harvest run smoothly.
1. Make sure people know where everything is
Harvest time means lots of new people (contractors, seasonal harvest workers) on the farm who aren’t familiar it. To avoid spending time explaining where each field is and how to get there provide a clear map with the names of all your fields and buildings and important information on how to get around. For example, on our farm we have ditches separating many of the fields rather than fences or hedges so it’s not obvious where the crossing points are and is useful to have them marked on.
With fieldmargin you can easily map all this information and then share with everyone in the team by inviting them to your farm (here’s how). People can then view the farm using the app on their mobile phone so you don’t have to worry about printouts getting lost.
2. Keep an eye on the weather
We hardly need to tell you this but what you might not have realised is that you can view the weather forecast for your farm right in the fieldmargin web app.
Our weather is powered by Dark Sky, a start-up which describes itself as using “robots to predict the weather with down-to-the-minute precision”. You can read the technical details of how their forecasting works here. This shows temperature, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, humidity, visibility and dew point. You can also open it out to view a rain radar which shows rain that is headed in your direction and when.
3. Don’t skip on checks and stay safe
The last thing you want is to be stuck in the field with a broken down machine (or worse) so make sure everything is serviced and ready to go. Don’t be tempted to skimp on morning servicing to get into the field. 2013 was a bumper year for combine fires with 112 fire-related claims made with NFU mutual. The hot, dry conditions we have seen this year mean 2017 could be another bad year. Many combine fires are caused by dust build up or the failure of small moving parts so spending the extra time on cleaning and checks could make all the difference.
Ensure everyone is aware of key hazards around the farm, particularly low hanging power lines. Better still, include these on your farm map so the information is available in context when needed.
Make sure everyone has a mobile phone and that they keep it charged and with them at all times (not left in the cab!) so that if something does go wrong they can get help.
4. Create a plan
Even if you can’t stick to it all the time having a plan will make you feel more in control and help to stay organised if things go awry. Make a note of what order you will want to harvest in, thinking about when fields were drilled, how things will be organised in the store and areas that are prone to getting wet that could become impossible to travel on in poor conditions. Ensure everyone knows what the plan is so that when one job is finished they know what to move on to next.
5. Stay in touch
With so many moving parts, communication is essential to keep things running smoothly. Use comments on to keep everyone updated with important information such as moisture levels, how things are looking in the store, servicing progress or when you will need someone to come and pick up a load from the combine.
6. Think about weed control
Taking big bits of kit through fields with weeds in seed is a fantastic way to spread them across your whole farm. You can reduce the likelihood of this by mapping the areas where you have particularly bad weed problems (yes, I mean your blackgrass field!) and using it to plan the order of fields to harvest.
Try to harvest clean fields first so you don’t bring seeds from your bad fields into the good ones. If that’s not possible then be extra diligent cleaning your machinery after harvesting a field with a severe weed problem.
7. Gather data for next year
This isn’t strictly going to have an impact on your harvest experience now but it could make a big difference to how you feel about next year’s.
If your combine harvester has yield mapping built in make sure that it is set up and correctly calibrated so that you can use the data to identify and quantify problematic areas of your fields that you can investigate over the coming growing season. Otherwise make notes as accurately as you can on your yield of each field and areas where you notice the crop looks poor.