Cropping yield uncertain till harvests all in

North Otago's cropping farmers are ''waiting with great expectations'', Foundation for Arable Research representative Peter Mitchell says.

He hoped the weather settled down for February, after a wet winter, spring and early summer. The last few days had been ''not too bad'' for the arable sector, he said on Friday.

Mr Mitchell, who runs a large mixed cropping farm that was last year's Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards supreme winner, had so far harvested early grass seed with a yield ''ever so slightly above average''.

However, the early barley had suffered from the winter moisture: ''It's not a barn-busting yield.''

The early hybrid rape was above expectations, although the germination and purity were yet to be tested. The bulk of harvesting was yet to start in North Otago.

''I'm predicting the yields will be reasonable, but not over the top. With the wet winter and spring, quite a lot of disease has taken the top out of the yield with the wheat.''

The spring barley was looking promising, but it was too soon to know what the quality would be. The district's cropping farmers were generally in a good frame of mind, he said. Most were not exclusively arable, so the rain that might have disadvantaged their crops was good for other parts of the farm.

''That's farming; you take the good with the bad.''

Prices seemed to holding firm, he said.

Farmers now had to be patient while they waited for crops to ripen and ideal harvesting conditions.

Further north, Makikihi farmer and Federated Farmers South Canterbury and North Otago grain and seed chairman Colin Hurst reported the season was ''progressing quite well''.

Hot temperatures last Wednesday had allowed plenty to be accomplished, and rain forecast for the following days had not eventuated.

The early crops had been ''a bit light'', but later ones looked good.

Federated Farmers South Island grain and seed vice-chairman David Clark said Mid-Canterbury's arable farmers were wanting to get the main harvest under way.

While dryland farmers had been able to start harvesting, those on irrigated land were still waiting because of the variable weather.

He believed the harvest would be average, at best.

Pea crops had been disappointing and grass seed yields were variable.

''Farmers need to be really responsible when burning stubble,'' Colin Hurst says.

The Federated Farmers South Canterbury and North Otago grain and seed chairman urged his colleagues to plan well before lighting stubble.

''The last thing we want to see is fires getting out of control. It could jump a fire break if you're not well-prepared.''

Although a burn-off that got away might not result in a large fire, it was important not to waste the Fire Service's time, Mr Hurst said. Farmers should realise it was a privilege to be allowed to use burning as a land-management tool, he said.

Anyone planning to burn stubble should notify neighbours and call off the burn if wind was likely to blow smoke across roads or towards residential areas.


- Sally Brooker and Maureen Bishop.



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