Wheat yields and quality are looking surprisingly good despite recent rains while malting spring barley is seen by some as the year’s best crop as views on the harvest become more optimistic.

The majority of milling wheats across southern England are now in the barn, while growers further north are catching wheat crops when dry or waiting for them to ripen.

As more wheat is cut, average yields are moving close to last year’s bumper harvest after some early low-yielding crops, while quality in terms of proteins, Hagbergs and specific weights is good.

Combine harvesting in a field of wheat

Rod Smith broke the world wheat yield record last summer but has not started his wheat harvest this season

Spring malting barleys are also showing good yields and quality as later-maturing crops perform better than early cut winter barley and oilseed rape.

See also: Harvest 2016: Milling wheats near finish in South, lots to cut further North

Quality wheat in Durham

Durham milling wheat grower Stephen Craggs reports pleasing yields and good quality grain although he is being held up by wet weather.

He has cut about a quarter of his 640ha of winter wheat, with yields hitting the farm average of 9-10t/ha, while proteins are very high at 14-14.5%, Hagbergs good at 370 plus and specific weights at 78kg/hl.

“Wheats look tremendous after a full fungicide programme, they are really golden in the field and have produced pleasing yields,” he tells Farmers Weekly.

He started cutting last week (15 Aug) but after combining 160ha of wheat by last weekend he has been delayed by showers.

He grows Skyfall, Crusoe and Solstice varieties at East Close Farm, two miles east of Sedgefield.

He had half expected poor results after his oilseed rape yielded just 2.5t/ha as high winds hit just before harvest compared with average farm yields which can reach up to 5t/ha.

Late-maturing wheats 

Further north, world wheat yield record holder Rod Smith is yet to start his winter wheat in north Northumberland after seeing good yields on his malting spring barley.

He expects to move into wheats in the middle of next week, close to the start of September, and is hopeful of decent yields after plenty of rain and sun.

“The potential looks quite promising as the crop is later and greener, and so has had longer to ripen,” he says.

He has cut 44ha of the old specialist malting spring barley variety Golden Promise which turned in a good yield of just over 5t/ha, when he normally expects just under 5t/ha.

He farms 400ha at Beal Farm, 10 miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, of fertile coastal land overlooking Holy Island.

Last summer, he broke the world wheat record with a yield of 16.52t/ha.

Malting crops in Morayshire

Even further north, Iain Green in Morayshire has cut 80ha of the new spring barley variety Fairing on some light land with a good yield of just over 7t/ha.

“We are very pleased with the yield on the lighter land, but a bit cautious on how the crop will fare on the heavier land,” he says.

He is growing nearly 600ha of malting spring barley with most of the area down to Concerto and Laureate, on his 1,200ha farm at Corskie, Garmouth, Fochabers.

His 72ha of six-row winter barleys averaged 8.15t/ha of “not fantastic” specific weights, but will be fed to pigs on the farm.

Winter wheat are looking very well but it will be September before he cut his 100ha.

Norfolk barley

In north Norfolk, Holkham farm manager James Beamish has just finished cutting 500ha of malting spring barley with yields on par with the farm’s five-year average yield of just under 7t/ha, while winter barley and oilseed rapes were well down.

Spring barley quality was good with a very pleasing sample of low nitrogen content and low screenings, while he is preparing to start cutting winter wheat.

“Yields were only average on the spring barley but came after winter  barley yields were 20% down and oilseed rape off 10%,” he says.

One of the positive from harvest so far is low drying costs as he prepared to start cutting 350ha of feed wheat (23 August) on the 2,300ha managed arable land in north Norfolk.

Finished in Lincolnshire 

Lincolnshire grower James Ireland has just finished harvest with spring barley malting variety Planet doing well on heathland after sugar beet yielding 7.5t/ha with low nitrogen of 1.4-1.5%.

Milling wheat variety Cordiale did pretty well at 9-10t/ha, with wheat and spring barley doing better than “average” winter barley and “disappointing” oilseed rape.

Mr Ireland farms with his brother Mark and father Tony at Grange Farm, North Rauceby, three miles west of Sleaford.

Milling wheats 

Philip Darke, managing director of co-operative Camgrain, says the majority of the 200,000t of milling wheat it markets from across eastern and central England is now in store.

Quality is generally good with proteins very variable at 10.5 to 15%, while Hagbergs and specific weights were generally over the milling standards of 250 and 76kg/hl.

“Yields are reasonable and it has been a dry harvest with the longest run of decent weather at harvest that I can remember,” he says.