Stormy harvest © Tim Scrivener© Tim Scrivener

Catchy harvest weather continues to see growers strive to maintain crop quality amid ongoing damp conditions and rising drying costs.

Areas facing the most challenging conditions include southern England, with Wiltshire and Hampshire particularly hard hit by wet weather. But the situation is better going further north and in Scotland, where combines are still rolling into crops.

As Farmers Weekly went to press, the latest figures due to be released by consultancy Adas and AHDB Cereals were expected to show variable crop quality across much of the country – with access to good drying and processing facilities increasingly sought after.

See also: Rain hampers harvest in Scotland and northern England

Early results from AHDB Recommended List trials show specific weights of 78-80kg/hl, with Hagbergs ranging from 270-337 for milling wheat. But AHDB’s Simon Oxley cautioned that values were likely to fall where crops were harvested later following high rainfall.

Rain continues to hamper harvest in Scotland and throughout northern England. Yields and quality have been reasonable in Northumberland, with winter barley exceeding expectations in East Yorkshire and some problems in spring barley in Lincolnshire.

Simon Barry, chief executive of Inverness-based Highland Grain, said: “The further north you go in the UK, the better it gets. We are 70-75% through spring barley now and there is some brackling, but that is certainly not the case everywhere.”

Lot of variation

Andrew Hill, grain orientation team leader with Frontier, said there was likely to be enough usable quality in the market, but it would depend on farmers separating grains. “There is still a lot of sorting out to do on farm, with lots of field-to-field variation,” he said.

Although it had been a particularly wet summer south of the M4 motorway, Mr Hill said it hadn’t been anywhere near as bad as the dismal harvest of 2012. Quality hadn’t been as heavily impacted, although there was still 10-15% to cut further north in Yorkshire.

East Anglia and the Midlands escaped the worst of the wet summer, but much grain is being dried. Norfolk-based buying group AF reports a 39% increase in the volume of bulk gas ordered in August compared with the same month last year – although not all of it for drying.

Camgrain managing director Philip Darke said the farmer-owned co-operative had capped its drying charges at £6/t for 22% moisture, enabling growers to maintain quality by harvesting crops damp knowing how much it would cost to dry them, rather than leaving them in the field.

Mr Darke said: “We have just come out of two straightforward harvests, so it makes things look worse than they are. Modern combine capacity is enormous so you can chew huge volumes off – you’ve just got to have the drying capacity to deal with it.

“If you’re tooled up with the right kit, it’s more straightforward. We have the infrastructure so the most complicated thing for us in a stop-go harvest is keeping the lorries moving. We need them moving seven days a week, not just when the combines are rolling.”