Early-cut winter barleys are said to be yielding well, but nitrogen contents are unusually low in a harvest starting up to 10 days later than usual in places.

One estimate was that no more than 5-10% of southern crops had been cut by the start of the week. But with a good forecast, albeit with showers towards the weekend, the picture could soon change, trade sources suggested.

Little oilseed rape had been gathered, timely desiccation often having been thwarted by rough weather. And despite the threat of more changeable weather for the first half of next week, growers were being urged not to rush to combine crops unfit with red seeds.

“We’re about a week away from getting a clear view on oilseed rape and winter barley,” said Charlie Whitmarsh of Frontier Agriculture.

“But we’re encouraging people not to get into oilseed rape too early. There’s a danger that we’ll see a lot of red seed, which isn’t good news for oil contents.

“Early indications are of pretty good barley yields with nitrogens on the low side – a lot at 1.5-1.6 – which could mean wheat proteins will be down.”

Grainfarmers’ Paul Taylor echoed those barley comments, though few crops had been cut beyond the traditionally early areas, he noted.

Some six-row yields had disappointed, probably due to take-all, but two-rows were doing better.

Pearl and Flagon crops of 3t/acre are commonplace,” said Mr Taylor. “But we’re seeing some very low Ns. I haven’t heard of winter barleys below 1.6N for some time because people usually push them to the limit. Perhaps with the price of N [fertiliser] they’ve been holding back.”

Oilseed rape yields were “quite pleasing” one crop of HOLL variety Splendor giving Castille-type yield. “But not a lot’s been done because some people couldn’t get their desiccants on.”

Stressing that oil content was mostly built towards the end of crop ripening, he said: “Do let them senesce properly. It’s money in your pocket.”

Weald Granary’s John Smith, anticipating “a busy week”, with more than 1000t of oilseed rape already delivered, said most members seemed happy with yields. “Oil contents are slightly over 44%.”

Camgrain manager Philip Darke confirmed N contents in first barleys were low, but most growers had only just begun cutting.

James Thorpe, about halfway through 194ha (480 acres) of Flagon and Cassata at Badlingham Manor near Newmarket, estimated the former’s yield was “above average” by 8-9%.

“It’s promising and the quality’s very good – 1.6-1.78. It needs to be below 1.8 for malting.”

In West Sussex, David Bates’ six-row hybrid Boost for feed was “running very well” at North Marden Farm near Chichester. “It’s doing 3.8t/acre, slightly up on last year.” Specific weight, initially 65kg/hl, had risen to 69kg/hl as combining progressed.

Mark Wells – about two-thirds through 182ha (450 acres) of barley at Symonds Farm, Risby, Suffolk – said yields of Carat and six-row Sequel were slightly above average.

Red OSR seed ‘myth’

According to United Oilseeds’ Richard Elsdon, it was the colour of the seed content, not its coat, which mattered when it came to maximising rape oil content.
“We know that oilseed rape tells you a lie at every opportunity, and the redness of the seed coat is irrelevant. We get brown-coated seeds in all varieties. What matters is the ‘meat’ inside. If it’s as yellow as a daffodil it’s perfect.”
Seed content still green, though moisture was down to 10-12%, showed crops had been swathed or desiccated prematurely, he said.

Harvest highlights