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Hot harvest causing problems for farmers across the UK

As harvest continues at a fast pace for some, for others record high temperatures have led to crops which are ‘too dry to harvest’.


Abby   Kellett

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Abby   Kellett
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While the hot weather and lack of rainfall has eliminated the need to dry many cereal crops, some growers have had to stop harvesting oilseed rape (OSR) because the seed was too dry, with the moisture content of some seed as low as 5.5 per cent.

 

Bedfordshire farmer, David Ainsley says: “I started harvesting a crop of Campus yesterday [July 15], but I had to stop because the moisture content was averaging below 6 per cent and was as low as 5.5 per cent in places. There is rain forecast later in the week and so I am hoping that will lift the moisture content sufficiently to avoid rejections.

 

“Although the seeds appeared small, the small bit of the field I harvested averaged 3.8t/ha so there must be plenty of seeds per sq.m.”

 

Cambridgeshire farmer, Tom Martin has barely had any rain for the last two months, with the exception of a light shower on June 16. While OSR crops are coping with the dry conditions, he believes wheat crops are suffering.

 

He says: “We are well into our oilseed rape harvest, with crops holding up okay on our heavy clay land. So far we have harvested Elgar, which has averaged around 3.5t/ha - down from our longer term average which is closer to 4t/ha, but given the weather we are pleased.

 

“Our wheat is coming forward worryingly quickly and I guess we will be combining it by the weekend [July 21]. The sample looks very poor indeed, despite looking good for most of the season - I suspect yields will be down.”

 

Results from the first two AHDB Recommended List (RL) winter barley trial sites show a two tonne/hectare yield difference. While in Lincolnshire, crops averaged 11.07t/ha (4.48t/acre), in Suffolk yields averaged a more modest 9.03t/ha (3.65t/acre).

 

The overall yield average of control varieties from the two trials so far in 2018 is 10.05t/ha (4.07t/acre), contributing to a five-year control average yield of 9.88t/ha (3.99t/acre).

 

The variable yields are not surprising, according to AHDB, given the wet weather in March and April and the dry weather in June, which saw soil moisture deficits the highest recorded since 1961.

 

Yield differences will depend on crop establishment and rooting over the winter and the moisture retention capability of the soils over the dry summer spell, say AHDB.


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