Severe storms, pest and disease damage and a lack of sunshine have had a severe impact on barley and oilseed rape (OSR) crops across the country, with growers reporting quality issues and low yields.
Aside from reports of poor crop quality, isolated storms have caused severe pod loss of up to 50 per cent in some OSR crops.
Worst-affected areas include the East Midlands and the South East coast, where heavy hail showers stripped pods bare.
Those growers who escaped the storms are reporting poor oilseed rape yields compared to previous years.
Daniel King, who farms near Bourne, Lincolnshire, believes his OSR is ‘the worst rape for 14 years’, with yields ranging between 2.7-3.6 tonnes per hectare (1.1-1.5t/acre), despite a large crop mass.
He attributes this to a combination of verticillium wilt, cabbage stem flea beetle damage, late frosts and lack of sun.
Colchester, Essex, farmer Tom Bradshaw has harvested 72ha (180 acres) of OSR.
He says: “Our oilseed rape is terrible. Our best crop is yielding 2.8t/ha. There has been a massive amount of flea beetle which has allowed secondary disease in.”
However, David Felce, Cambridgeshire farmer and Agrii regional manager, says: “Oilseed rape has been reasonable considering flea beetle damage. We have been getting between 3.75-4t/ha with Alegria and Nikita.”
In the West, OSR yields have also been disappointing as a result of a lack of sun during grain fill, causing small seed.
Shropshire farmer Nick Brooker says: “So far, oilseed rape crops are yielding about 35 per cent less than last year. Crops have branched out well but little sunshine has meant seeds are very small.”
Meanwhile, farmers in south Nottinghamshire are reporting quality problems with winter barley.
Alistair Baseley harvested a crop of Tower at 7.88t/ha (3.2t/acre), with an average bushel weight of 60kg/hl and Glacier at 7.18t/ha (2.9t/acre) and bushel weight 58kg/hl. He says: “That is well down, normally yields are around 9.7t/ha.”
Also disappointed with Tower is Lincolnshire farmer Douglas Laird. He says: “Ears look big and bold, but grain samples are very mixed – some normal but others so thin you would not be able to roll them for animal feed.”
Further north, Lincolnshire grower John Smith harvested a crop of Tower averaging 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre), with a bushel weights as low as 55kg/hl. “We knew it would be poor when we rubbed some out, grains were very thin.”
Barley harvest is now underway as far north as Northumberland, where initial reports indicate yields much closer to long-term averages.
One farmer, who harvested his first field of barley on Monday, estimated an average yield of 9.6t/hectare (3.9t/acre) in a crop of Volume with a moisture content of 17.5 per cent.
At the other side of the country, in north Kent, wheat harvest has begun but there is no information on yield or quality.