Merseyside arable farmer and agricultural YouTube star Olly Harrison has extended his five-way rotation with an additional “summer” barley crop planted on 28 June.
After an early finish to harvest of winter barley on the sandy banks of the river Mersey, Mr Harrison took the plunge to drill the 10ha field with some leftover spring barley seed the next day.
His aim was to gain an extra cash crop and make up for the fields’ disappointing winter barley yields, which saw the crop burn-off in the drought conditions.
See also: Why field loss is important for seed rate calculations
Watch the video below to see how the crop is progressing.
‘Summer’ barley establishment
Planting the spring barley variety Laureate at a seed rate of 170kg/ha with his Horsch Avatar direct drill, crops are now showing real promise, with hopes of a yield of 5t/ha.
The crop received zero applications of fungicide, insecticides, or herbicides – its only input was 30kg/ha of nitrogen fertiliser.
“In a standard spring barley crop we would normally apply about 120kg/ha of fertiliser and a single fungicide spray, but we’re hoping the residual nitrogen in the soil will be available,” he says.
Mr Harrison predicts harvest will be at the end of September/beginning of October, meaning the crop will have been in the ground for nearly 15 weeks.
“The grains are looking quite plump and the crop is starting to ripen and turn yellow. It looks like it could yield 5t/ha, but even if it does 2.5t/ha it will still be profitable, with the minimum amount of inputs we have used.
“It’s had £400 worth of fertilser, about £500 worth of seed and 30 litres of diesel to drill it. We’re hoping for 40-50t of grain and with a barley price where it is currently, it really stacks up.”
Best crop yet
In fact, this is the fourth time Mr Harrison has grown “summer” barley at Water Lane Farm where he grows winter wheat, oilseed rape, spring barley, spring beans and winter barley, across 560ha on the outskirts of Liverpool.
“I’ve had various different successes of growing the crop over the past three years. I have successfully combined the crop twice, but on one occasion it failed and didn’t get bought through to harvest.
Last year’s summer barley was planted a month later and lost out on important daylight hours which saw the crop harvested on 21 December – the shortest day of the year – and consequently didn’t yield particularly well.
“However, the crop that we never took through to harvest totally transformed the soil structure and the following crop of spring beans was amazing.”
“This year, is certainly looking to be the best one yet. With a longer growing season, we were able to get the crop into the ground sooner.
“We’ve had the best chance and we’re looking set to achieve a commercial yield – certainly something worthwhile doing.”
Although he considered whole cropping the barley, Mr Harrison is sticking with his original plans to combine the crop.
He intends to chop the straw to help improve soil organic matter and return vital P and K nutrients to the soil, before drilling a crop of spring beans next February and March.
Olly Harrison has been filming and uploading a video diary to YouTube for more than 900 days, sharing his duties and farming journey with the wider public.
What started as a bit of fun during the first Covid-19 lockdown, has seen his subscriber base grow considerably to more than 50,000.
The advertisement revenue from his videos has proven to be the most profitable part of his day. So much so that the money generated enabled him to purchase a new Bateman sprayer 12 months ago.
As one of the UK’s best-known farm-based YouTube stars, Mr Harrison has also raised more than £10,000 for local charities, including the local Liverpool Air Ambulance. He gives daily birthday shoutouts to members of the public who message him, and displays their names on the front of his sprayer in return for a small donation.