A UK tillage farmer reflects on the year that was 2021

The latest Tillage Edge podcast from Teagasc features a reflection on the year that was 2021 from UK-based farm manager, Andy Mahon. He was in conversation with Teagasc’s Michael Hennessy. “We had an interesting harvest – one to remember for good reasons and bad,” Mahon confirmed.
“But we have had a tremendous autumn – one to remember for all the right reasons.
“The weather through September, October and November has been amazing.”

Tillage review: Winter wheat

According to Mahon, winter wheat crops had been looking well up to June. “The weather turned quite wet at that stage,” he confirmed. “My crop disease control strategy had been fairly lean up to that point. I tested the crops for septoria post T2.
“There were some indications at that stage that the disease was about to shoot up. I hadn’t used an SDHI [succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor] at T2 but decided to go down this road at T3.
“This approach paid a dividend as the tail end of the growing season was quite wet. Disease pressure really ramped up leading into harvest,” he explained.

Weather for tillage Harvest 2021

Mahon explained that the harvest of 2021 was characterised by very cloudy and dull weather conditions. Winter wheat crops were harvested at the end of July. Mahon further explained: “We averaged 11t/ha. This was an unbelievable level of output for us; we are normally around the 9t mark. “A number of the crops followed peas. So that obviously helped.”

To plough or not to plough?

Mahon does not plough at all. Combinable crops grown on the farm are established using a no-till system. He continued:
“We had one field yielding 13t/ha. Crusoe was an outstanding variety for us this year. Proteins were a bit low, but this was because of the higher overall yields that we achieved.
“Spring wheat crops were less good though. Ground conditions were badly affected by frost throughout April, so crops were very slow in getting going.” Overall, it wasn’t a good year for Mahon’s spring crops. He did get 4.5t/ha to 5t/ha with spring wheat. “That’s very disappointing for us,” he stressed.
“Yes they are cheap to grow, in relative terms. But, even so, this was not a very exciting level of performance for us. Over the last number of years we would have been averaging up to 6t/ha with spring wheat crops,” he continued.
“Spring oats, however, did do well. Our long-term average with the crop is around 5.5t. And we were bang on that level of performance this year.”

Dried crops

“Oat straw was very green at harvest though. But the bushel weights for the 2021 oat crops were excellent.
“We have on-floor drying systems at the farm. Given the fact that the weather conditions remained so cloudy throughout the harvest period, and there was no wind, it was no possible to get moisture contents down below 17%.
“As a consequence, all the crops harvested this year were dried. So it was an expensive harvest in that respect.”