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Harvest 2017: Variable yields create winners and losers

Throughout much of the UK, oilseed rape (OSR) and barley yields have reflected crops’ ability to cope with dry conditions earlier in the season.


Initial reports suggest crops grown on free draining, sandy soils have produced modest yields compared with previous seasons.  

Abby   Kellett

Abby   Kellett
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Variable yields create winners and losers #FGHarvest17 #clubhectare

However, taking all harvested land into account, yields to date are slightly better than UK’s five-year average, according to AHDB, despite challenging growing conditions.


Michael Craske, who farms near Hadleigh, Suffolk has harvested 18ha (44 acres) of Propino spring barley, sown in November on light land, which has yielded about 7t/ha (2.8t/acre) with grain nitrogen between 1.45-1.58 per cent.


He has also harvested all 72ha (178acres) of Bazooka hybrid barley on the farm and is pleased with the results. “It yielded about 9.5t/ha and bushel weights were in the mid 60s,” says Mr Craske.


NFU vice president Guy Smith, who farms near Colchester in Essex, says he finished harvesting Volume barley last weekend [Jul 18]. “It was mediocre – about 5-10 per cent below our 10-year average. Next we are into peas, which look a bit more hopeful.


See also: Yields ‘better than expected’ as harvest creeps north


“We have had showers so we are getting on as and when. We will possibly get into wheat next week but we are facing a very variable harvest. With autumn droughts and spring droughts some crops have fared a lot better than others. It’s a real curate’s egg.”


Further north, Tom Martin, farming at Haddon, Peterborough, has finished harvesting his OSR, which has performed better than he expected.


Campus yielded 3.6t/ha (1.4t/acre), and Elgar averaged 3.8t/ha (1.5t/acre). The turnip-yellows resistant Amalie was a more disappointing at 3.2t/ha (1.3t/acre). “The Amalie never looked quite right – it was very gappy, and I must admit I was surprised it made 3.2t/ha.”

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Rain permitting, Mr Martin hopes to be into second wheats this week [w/c July 24].


Winter barley quality in Lincolnshire and north Nottinghamshire is reported to be variable depending on soil type and elevation. Dan Murphy, from grain cooperative Woldgrain says the harvest is ‘spectacularly average in every respect’ but he has noticed significant differences in feed barley bushel weights.


“On heavier land, crops have been reaching 65kg/hl, but on lighter sands or the chalk Wold tops, some have been as low as 56kg/hl.”


He blames drought stress for the difference, but says that preliminary samples of Venture malting barley look to be of very good quality.

Lincolnshire Wolds farmer John Smith says crops on higher land have produced poorer quality grain. “Barley specific weights were between 62-63kg/hl and screening levels were quite high. We had hoped for 64kg/hl, but it is still much better than last year, when it was 56-58kg/hl, so it is a big step forward.”


See also: PICTURE GALLERY: Harvest 2017 - How's your #FGHarvest17 going?


Farming in north Nottinghamshire, Harry Barton has recently harvested his ‘best OSR yield for years’ yielding 3.95t/ha (1.6t/acre) on sandy soil, despite droughty conditions. He puts the crop’s performance down to the introduction of a zero-till, controlled traffic farming system (CTF).


“It is the second year of zero-till with 12m controlled traffic farming. The CTF has given us improved soil structure and we have improved water holding capacity through not moving soil,” says Mr Barton.


Further west, Hereford agronomist, Tim Monckton says the OSR harvest is ahead of winter barley. “There is a lot of winter barley still to cut, but yields are good where it has come in.”


See also: Initial winter barley yields look promising


In northern England and southern Scotland, despite intermittent showers, the winter barley harvest is underway and initial yields are promising.


Berwickshire farmer, Iain Campbell says: “Although winter barley here has been ready to cut for a few days now, heavy showers have prevented us making any real progress.


“We managed to snatch a field of Tower winter barley at the end of the week [w/c July 17] which yielded around 3.2t/acre. Quality was pretty good with bushel weight around 63kg/hl.


“Providing the rain does not put too much crop down, I am confident the remaining winter barley will perform just as well.”

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