Harvest 2019 at Springfield Farms was completed with our crop of spring beans. Luckily, I’m not a superstitious person as combining began on Friday 13th, finishing up without mishap on Sunday 15th September. Conditions were ideal, with temperatures in the early twenties and a fit crop that went straight into store without requiring drying. Spring beans were a change to legume break cropping, following two years of growing Soya. And to my delight, harvest arrived over a fortnight earlier than the previous crop of Soya, even when compared to the exceptionally dry year of 2018.
Sowing had been a two-part campaign, with roughly half the area sown at the end of February and the second half at the end of March. Beginning harvest with the earliest area, first impressions as we took the headland off were favourable. As the final load from the first field drew near, anticipation had built, with the weighbridge running total already well beyond my expectations. The final trailer was swiftly dispatched back to the yard to be weighed off. The total came to 45.87 tonne from 7.6 ha, giving a yield of 6.0 t/ha. A fantastic result, with the second February sown field achieving 5.8 t/ha.
The remaining 22 hectares of Beans were sown at the end of March, following rain. The yield averaged 4.2t/ha, which would normally be a respectable tonnage for Spring Beans. Ten hectares of the late sowing was a field where our cover crop termination differed from our normal farm standard. As discussed in an earlier diary entry one half was grazed off, the second frost rolled. Interestingly, both halves yielded the same with the increased nutrient availability seen with the sheep grazing not being as pronounced with a legume crop as it had been with the Spring Wheat. Ultimately, both methods succeeded in presenting the biomass back to soil ready for our worm population to play their part, creating textbook conditions for sowing.
Whilst it’s not every February we will have the conditions witnessed this year; the two drill dates certainly made for an interesting comparison. The unusually dry winter encouraged particularly strong early rooting as they went in search of moisture during February, which as the season progressed supported a markedly taller plant. Plant heights were recorded for the two sowing dates, the earlier sowing averaged 151cm, some 40cm taller than the March beans. The additional height most importantly provided additional light interception, with pod height remaining broadly similar albeit with more productive pods overall. Weed control was also more effective in the earlier sowing, aided by rainfall through early-mid March.
In all its been a very pleasing return to growing spring beans at Springfield Farm, best of all our soils are in fantastic condition complete with carry over nitrogen ready for wheat.