The impact of the wet weather on crop quality is beginning to show, as rainfall continues to put a dampener on what looked to be a promising harvest.
In North Cumbria standing wheat crops are sprouting in the ear as a result of the sustained wet and warm conditions, according to Hutchinsons agronomist Jim Clark.
He says: “We have some laid wheat but even the standing wheat is starting to sprout now. This will have an effect on the quality and feed value of the grain.
“Fields are becoming that wet, physically travelling with the combines is getting quite difficult too. It’s really turning into a snatch and grab harvest.”
With a majority of winter barley crop in the area cut, winter wheat and spring barley remains in the field, and spring barley will be ready in the next 10 days, says Mr Clark.
“In general winter barley and winter wheat we’ve cut have been really good but its physically getting that crop. There’s lots of straw laid in the swath where we just can’t get it dry enough to bale so it’s quite grim at the moment. If we can get a dry week it’ll change a lot.”
Meanwhile, in Cambridgeshire and Rutland, up to 20 per cent of grower, Steve Briggs’ organic winter oat crop has been lost to strong winds.
He says: “It was dry and fit and when we were combining it was about 13 per cent moisture, but the wind last weekend [August 10] just threshed it in the field. What we have cut came in quite well until that wind came through. Mascani was yielding 6.4tonnes/hectare but is down to 5.5t/ha now.”
Where trees have created a windbreak for the crop, yield losses are much lower adds Mr Briggs.
“Yields are 10-15 per cent down rather than 20-25 per cent. It’s a good lesson for me that the agroforestry is not only reducing wind in the winter and spring but also mid-summer.”
Despite a ‘frustrating’ harvest with mixed weather, yields elsewhere on the farm are on par for a normal year so far, says Mr Briggs.
“Oats were particularly badly affected because they’re tall but yields we had in for everything else are okay - I don’t know what the rest will be like now. There’s wheat with stuff on the floor and a lot of black barley around which has shed. We have straw to pick up as well which has been hampered by the weather and we can’t turn and bale until it’s more settled.”
Brett Askew, North East NFU combinable crops chair farms near Gateshead is harvesting winter oats between the showers.
He says: “I feel lucky to have got barley and rape in as quite a few farmers still have them to harvest. Some of the oats are really flat and have germinated. They went down a long time ago and are as difficult as I’ve known for a long time.
“Barley straw is still to be baled – it was cut on July 24. There has been persistent heavy rain. Some farmers in this area are cutting wheat at 23 per cent moisture because of shedding and sprouting - they want to get it in before it gets worse.”
Although farms in his area have generally been less affected by cabbage stem flea beetle than farms further south, ironically difficult harvesting conditions and seed shedding have put some off growing the crop. “They have been sending seed back to the merchants.”
Mr Askew says harvest has also been more expensive, calculating that he has used one-third more diesel for harvesting than last year.
“We have been going slower and there is the weight of corn on the chopper. There is also the knock-on effect of drying costs and extra haulage because of wetter grain.”