For some regions in the South East of the UK, the last day of widespread rainfall was May 29, leading to the highest late-June moisture deficits since 1961, according to Met Office figures. Yet, despite the prolonged drought, many farmers are reporting yields which are ‘better than expected’.
Growers are just getting into wheat in southern and eastern areas with 5-7 per cent of the crop harvested south of the M4, estimates Jonathan Lane, trading manager at Gleadell.
"It is yielding 7-9t/ha and the quality is generally good."
Frontier key account manager (grain) Zoe Andrew says of wheat cut so far, yields have held up well. "It is still very early to form a real view, but yields are not bad at all considering the doom and gloom predictions there have been over the last two weeks. I have heard of some doing 10.5t/ha which you would be pleased with any year.
"Proteins and Hagbergs are good. There are some low bushel weights on light land, but this is the exception not the rule.
"Kent and Dorset had a little bit more moisture than some other parts of the country which could have protected crops from the dry weather.”
David Felce, Agrii regional technical manager, based in the Cambridgeshire/Bedfordshire area, says while some wheat on lighter land is being cut in the region, it is too early to make predictions. "I think it will vary quite a lot – some of the grains are quite small. It has died rather than ripened. With heavier land we are making sure we don’t rush into it.”
While there may be concerns about wheat, winter barley has performed well in the area, particularly hybrid varieties, says Mr Felce. "It had ripened or come into ear before the hot weather struck. A lot has yielded 9t/ha and some above. Most is in the mid-60s on bushel weight – some of the six rows are a bit lower.”
Robert Law, who farms on the Cambridgeshire/Hertfordshire/Essex borders, has also seen good winter barley performance. "It was all Carat with a very good bushel weight of 74, yields of 8-10t/ha and 97-98 per cent retention.”
He is yet to get into wheat, but says he has heard reports of shrivelled grains in the area.
Ian Matts, arable director at Brixworth Farming in Northamptonshire says although the dry weather has had an impact on some crop yields, winter barley has yielded surprisingly well, even on some of the lighter land.
"This could be due to the light land drying up earlier in spring, allowing more timely applications, particularly of nitrogen – or the fact that the light land has been less affected by the late drought through being more advanced all season."
Oilseed rape is coming in below the farm’s 5-year average, but quality appears to be good. "Thankfully we have not had the problem of moisture contents dropping too low, the majority has come in between 6-8 per cent and should therefore attract the moisture bonus without too much of a yield penalty. Oils also appear to be good at around 46 per cent."
Harvest results from eight AHDB Recommended List (RL) winter barley trials sites (Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Warwickshire, North Yorkshire, Glamorgan, Scottish Borders and Dorset) show winter barley yields are above average.
Despite the weather extremes across the UK this season, the average treated yield of control varieties (10.11 t/ha) is currently ahead of the five-year average (9.9 t/ha).
Information on untreated yields from five sites (Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Glamorgan, Scottish Borders and Dorset) indicates the average untreated yield from the controls is 7.73t/ha, which is the same as the five-year average.
The five-year average of new two-row feed varieties KWS Gimlet (104%), LG Mountain (103%), Sobell (103%) and LG Flynn (103%) are looking favourable when compared with current popular two-row feed varieties, according to AHDB.
Latest RL results are available at cereals.ahdb.org.uk