With winter crops ripening quickly, winter barley and oilseed rape is expected to be harvested up to two weeks earlier than usual this season.
Signs of ripening have prompted many growers to start desiccating winter barley and oilseed rape crops in southern England this week.
Farming near Romney Marsh on the south east coast of England, Matt Lewis says crops of OSR are ‘well ahead’ compared to previous seasons.
“Oilseed rape is miles ahead – we have always harvested our barley before the oilseed rape, but I am not sure this is going to be the case this year.
“Our Compass rape is turning so fast, I am expecting to desiccate some of it by the start of next week [w/c June 26]. If OSR carries on the same, I would expect it to be cut in the second week of July, instead of the end of July like normal.”
South east England-based Agrovista agronomist Linda Sheppard says there are several factors which have contributed to early ripening this season.
First few fields of OSR sprayed off today,couple of days early but forcast for rest of the week isn't too good. pic.twitter.com/yCEvJVgbxM— Malc Parr (@tractorman07)
“Crops were very well developed in autumn and started growing early in spring – and because the weather has been mild and dry, crops are generally just more forward and the recent hot weather has exacerbated the situation.”
Some of her customers have already made a start on desiccating crops of winter OSR.
“I do not remember OSR having ever been desiccated in June before. It is looking like some OSR and barley crops in the area will be harvested around two weeks earlier than normal,” she adds.
Further west, Frontier agronomist Russell Dean says crops in his area have been forward throughout the season.
“Key timings including T1s and T2s have been about 10 days earlier this year and OSR flowered about seven days earlier than normal, so it should not be surprising we are in for an early harvest.”
Wheat harvest is also expected to be earlier than previous seasons, with crops which have been affected by diseases, such as takeall and rust, likely to be the first ready for harvest.
Given the long periods of dry weather which have been prevalent this season, some growers are questioning the need to desiccate crops of OSR.
But since dry weather affected the performance of some herbicides this spring, Mrs Sheppard says a desiccant may be required in crops affected by grass-weeds.
She says: “If the dry weather continues, growers are less likely to be using glyphosate to kill off the straw. However, there are a lot of grass-weeds about so, in some situations, a pre-harvest desiccation may be required to control problematic grass-weeds.”
Agrovista technical manager Chris Martin advises using desiccants such as glyphosate as a harvest aid. “In my experience, desiccating with glyphosate only brings harvest forward a couple of days, but generally makes harvesting easier with less admixture – to me it is an insurance policy and harvest aid more than anything else.”
However, Hampshire farmer Ian Milburn is planning on allowing most of his OSR to ripen naturally. “With crops drying out much quicker than normal, I am taking the opportunity to reduce my herbicide usage and allow the crop to ripen naturally.
“I expect I will still be harvesting both my barley and oilseed rape earlier than last year because they are at least one week ahead, so I can afford to leave crops a few more days to ripen.
“However, there are a couple of fields where I have not managed to control grass-weeds coming in from the field boundaries, so I will be spraying off a couple of headlands over the coming days.”