While average barley and oilseed rape (OSR) yields are struggling to match those of previous years, growers are reporting notable yield improvements where crops were drilled later.
In the north Midlands and north of England, barley crops do not appear to have suffered the poor specific weights to the same degree as those further south and yields have remained closer to typical farm yields.
Lincolnshire farmer Nick Wright achieved 7.4 tonnes/hectare (3t/acre) with his crop of conventional feed barley. He says: “I am pleasantly surprised. I cannot really compare to last year – we got spoiled then, but it seems to be good for this year. Bushel weights look okay.”
Yorkshire grower John Gatenby has noticed a 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) yield improvement where new barley variety Power was drilled later in the season. Similarly bushel weights had increased by about 8kg/hl to around 68kg/hl.
Two-row variety, Orwell also appears to have benefited from late drilling on his farm: “Orwell drilled in late November is looking wonderful – big grains, well filled, probably 4t/acre. This year suited it very well but it might not work like that in a normal year,” says Mr Gatenby.
After early impressions of his barley being ‘well back on last year’ Alan Miller Steven from Fife says recent figures indicate an average yield of 8.2t/ha (3.3t/acre) for a crop of Pearl, with specific weights of around 65.9kg/ha.
Despite improved yields in the Midlands and the north of England, there is little comparison between this season and harvest 2015.
North Lincolnshire grower, Charles Anyan reached a top OSR yield of 3.9t/ha (1.6t/acre) compared to an average of 5t/ha (2t/acre) last year. He says: “Oilseed rape is decidedly average, but seeing some of the reports down south I'm very happy with those figures.”
Although progress in the South has being slower than usual, winter barley harvest is nearing completion in the south and east of England.
Andrew Barr, Kent says: “We’ve done some rape. It’s not vintage but not a disaster. We’ll hopefully do some wheat this week. We’ve normally finished oilseed rape at the end of and are into wheat and spring barley so we’re definitely later than usual.”
Kent-based agronomist, Neil Harper says: “Winter barley has been mixed. Hybrid varieties have been yielding 8.5t/ha with bushel weights between 50 and 63 which is not too bad. Conventional varieties have been doing 7.5t/ha with bushel weights in the mid to late 50s.”
Where OSR has been grown in a narrow rotation, yields have tended to be lower, according to Mr Harper.
“Oilseed rape has been averaging 3t/ha where rotations have been wider but in general has been disappointing. Exalte has done fairly well compared with Harper.
“Early wheats are promising with good bushel weights in the late 70s and early 80s and proteins of 13 per cent. Yield has been in the early around 9t/ha to just over 11t/ha for Cordiale and Skyfall.”
In Newark, grower Mark Leggott is relieved to see that wheat is looking better than barley, a crop of Crusoe achieving 10t/ha on some of his lighter land, with a reasonable bushel weight of 78kg/hl.