After wet weather caused frustrating delays to harvest earlier this week, combining is in full swing in southern England, with promising winter barley and oilseed rape yields.
David Neale, head of crop marketing at distributor Agrii, says there is a real north-south divide to this season’s harvest.
“South of the Cotswolds and to the East there have been some large areas of winter barley cut but further north in Warwickshire, Shropshire and Lincolnshire things are moving a lot slower,” he says.
“The barley crop is looking good, averaging 10t/ha with good bushel weights – farmers seem very pleased,” he adds.
Oilseed rape yields also seemed above average, between 3.5t/ha and 4.5t/ha, and although some seeds are a bit small there have been good reports on oil contents, Mr Neale says.
The AHDB estimates that 30% of the winter barley crop and 15% of the oilseed rape crop has been harvested nationwide.
Simon Wilcox of Wessex Grain in Somerset, says the harvest has been a stop-start affair so far in his area.
“There is a lot of pent-up frustration but progress is picking up rapidly now. Feed barley is coming in around 8.4t/ha off gravel but good ground is producing around 11t/ha with nice bushel weights in the mid- to high-60s,” he says.
Oilseed rape yields are average to above average, but oil contents were quite variable, he reports.
“Despite the rain, a good proportion of it has come in surprisingly dry. It looks encouraging so far and everyone is ready to crack on now,” says Mr Wilcox.
Further west, Charlie Watson-Smyth was making a start on combining Maris Otter winter barley at Tregirls Farm near Padstow, Cornwall, today (31 July).
“I have 40ha to cut and I expect to get 5t/ha. It is all looking good at the moment and is on a contract with Robin Appel to supply St Austell Brewery,” he says
Mr Watson-Smyth also cut 40ha of Cassia winter barley last week, averaging 6.7t/ha and 17% moisture. “It was surprisingly dry considering the rain we had,” he says.
His 120ha of spring barley should be ready next week. “It looks good at the moment. We had a very dry April and I can see dry patches in the field but I expect it will be alright.”
Across in the east, Peter Mead has finished harvesting winter barley at Moors Farm, Foxton, in Cambridgeshire with 50ha of Cassia and Tower coming off at 8.9t/ha and 13.8% moisture.
“I’m really happy with the yield, just not so happy about the price,” he says.
He had also cut 20ha of oilseed rape at 3t/ha and 7.7% moisture. His in not sure of the oil content yet but is not particularly happy with the crop as it suffered bad cabbage stem flea beetle damage.
“We lost 15ha to flea beetles last year and I’m not sure whether to grow it again this year, although I do have an application in for neonicotinoid dressed seed,” he says.
Further north, harvest has been slow to start according to Dan Murphy, logistics co-ordinator at Woldgrain in Lincolnshire.
“We have had very little in so far with 700t of feed barely at around 16-19% moisture, from last weekend, but little since,” he says.
Three loads of Venture malting barley have just been delivered and looked very good, with other malting barley crops reported to be within the nitrogen specification.
There had also been three loads of rape which looked good. “It’s been a bit of a stop-start harvest and there has really been nothing done in July so we are expecting a rush at the beginning of August now,” Mr Murphy adds.
Even further north, harvest had barely started, says Dave Young at GrainCo.
“There has really only been a very small amount of barley cut but good reports have been coming in from Northumberland and Derby areas with yields of around 9t/ha for the hybrid variety Volume,” he says.
Oilseed rape has been sprayed off with glyphosate but rain had hampered progress with between two and three inches in the early part of the week.
“The few crops that have been cut have yielded well. The rest of the harvest has the potential to do well but the weather is holding it back at the moment. Fortunately, nothing appears to have suffered any damage which is good news,” he says.