Although harvest has been completed considerably earlier than normal in many areas, for those with crops still left to combine, unpredictable, showery weather is beginning to cause delays.
Brian Matheson, who farms on the Black Isle, Scotland, had almost finished combining his 45-hectare winter wheat crop last Friday (August 24), with half of his spring barley still to cut.
“Moisture is 16 per cent which is very good for this far north. For LG Motown and KWS Jackal seed wheat, yields have been 3.5-3.75 tonne/acre, below average but acceptable. Seed is smaller – it suffered from the drought.
"Sassy [spring malting barley] has done well, averaging over 3t/acre and 1.55-1.68 per cent N. We’ve cut some Concerto which has been more disappointing, especially on lighter land, yielding about 2.25-2.5t/acre.”
Angus-based Monitor/Quality Meat Scotland farmer Rory Stodart is combining wheat which he says has been good so far, yielding 10.6-10.8t/ha. Varieties include Zulu and Leeds.
Mr Stodart says: “Oilseed rape did well, between 4.8t/ha and 5.1t/ha – we’re pretty delighted with that. Spring barley has been poorer than we first hoped, doing 2.3-2.4t/acre. This is less than our five-year average but considering there was no rain for months it is not too bad. The quality is good – nitrogens are not too much of a problem and skinning and screenings are no problem.”
Although harvest was ahead of normal in Scotland, showery weather in the last couple of weeks is now leading to delays. Mr Stodart says: "We started spring barley 10 days earlier than last year but now we are in the same position. The weather is a nightmare.”
On heavy fen land near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, no-till farmer Eddie Gent’s winter wheat came in at 9.5t/ha compared to last year’s 10.4t/ha; spring wheat at 7-7.5t/ha and spring oats 5.5-7t/ha despite very wet conditions at establishment.
Mr Gent says: “Looking at the weather we had and the results we got, I think we can be pretty pleased. I like to take an easy year when it comes – you don’t get many of them.”
Spring barley has been the crop of the year, according to Yorkshire Wolds farmer John Gatenby. He could not drill 30 per cent of his winter cereals, so put in the barley later. Despite only receiving 62mm of rain between May 20 and harvest it yielded about 9t/ha while Cordiale winter wheat came in at 7.5t/ha and winter barley, 8.5t/ha.
“It’s ironic that the crop in the ground for four months outdid the ones there for a year,” says Mr Gatenby.
Despite this success, he does not expect to grow spring barley again, since he intends to re-establish his winter seed crop rotation.
Mike Daniels, farming on the Lincolnshire Wolds, felt crops had benefitted from being fairly close to the coast, getting slightly more moisture from morning mists and suffering less from extreme temperatures. Spring barley quality was good, but late drilling and extreme weather reduced yields. Winter wheat and barley were ‘a little below average, but quite satisfactory’, he says.
“We are pretty upbeat, which is a nice way to feel – we haven’t felt this way for some time.”
Winter wheat was York-based David Blacker’s best performing crop, with first wheats on good land delivering 10t/ha across all farms. The worst crops came off the heaviest land which he felt was counter intuitive for a droughty season. Graham was the most reliable variety, with Shabras and Crispin also good performers.
Spring barley and spring oats were still being cut at the weekend with barley doing 5t/ha and oats about 4t/ha. Spring beans were expected to be poor in yield and quality.