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Harvest 2019: Oilseed rape crops suffer as combines struggle to get on

Widespread showers across Scotland has put harvest on hold as OSR growers voice growing concerns over quality.

Harvest is progressing, but at a very slow pace with cutting decisions being made by the forecast and the potential deterioration in grain quality rather than moisture at Neil White’s farm in Berwickshire.


“Some oilseed rape is beginning to sprout, especially in the lying patches. Thursday (August 15) was a dry day and everyone was cutting, winter barley and rape were the priorities with a few moving into wheat.


“Some early wheat is also at risk of sprouting and if the weather improves it will be cut regardless of moisture and the added expense of drying will be accepted over quality issues.”


Spring barley is almost ready on the farm, with hopes the weather will change considerably for drier crops and to allow straw to be baled.


“I still have winter barley straw lying from three weeks ago,” says Mr White. “The amount of straw chopped has increased already and will continue to rise as wet ground conditions and mixed forecasts make baling and clearing fields almost impossible.


“It is not all gloomy as the crops cut are good but remaining ones are deteriorating in the wet and the bulk of harvest is still to come.”

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In Laurencekirk, grower Andrew Moir says winter barley yields cut in late July and early August were outstanding but 100ml of rain, with more to come has put things on hold.


“Our oats are ready, but the land is unable to carry the combine. We really need rain to stop now as four or five dry days are needed to let ground dry enough to carry machinery.


“The stop/start harvest means we will have barley, oilseed rape, wheat and oats all needing cut at the same time, putting pressure on the availability of combines, trailers and balers.”




Euan Walker Munro, in Forfar, Angus says: “So far, we have had good winter barley yields, which should go some way to making up for poor field conditions.


“Winter oilseed rape is being cut at 16 to 18 per cent moisture when it should be 12 per cent or below. Again, field conditions are poor, so surface damage is anticipated. The oilseed crop is now deteriorating hence the urgent need to get it combined and into shed.”


With around 80 per cent of the 2020 crop of winter oilseed rape being sown in acceptable conditions, the remainder has been poor and knock on effects are already anticipated for next harvest.


“The forecast is looking better for next week. The issue then will be ‘telescoping’ of crops with winter oilseed rape and winter oats still to be cut impacting on harvesting spring crops and into wheat.”



On Jack Stevenson’s farm in Banff there are still some areas with oilseed rape to lift that has been lying in a swath for three weeks.


“There are big problems getting straw cleared for oilseed rape planting and one estate near us has put self-propelled forage harvester into winter barley straw to get land cleared.


“We are getting very heavy localised showers nearly every day making ground very wet. I anticipate that spring barley will be starting the middle of next week when hopefully weather improves. There is lodging in some spring barley fields and harvesting them will be tricky.


“It is a complete contrast to last year, with our winter barley yields down by 0.6 tonnes per acre.”



Very little has been achieved in the past fortnight for Zander Hughes in Fife who says lodging and brackling is rife despite strong PGR programmes with only the strongest programmes on wheat surviving unscathed.


Mr Hughes says: “Yields seem to be good across all crops so far however most haven’t ventured into spring crops yet. Quality may well prove to be an issue.


“My biggest concern now is the workload in front of us. Wheat and spring barley appear to be ripening at the same time with spring oats not far behind.


"It will be a question of where to turn first. Some growers also have second cut silage that would normally be done by now.”

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