As more combines start to roll, reports from growers across southern England this week suggest that barley yields have held up reasonably well despite the April drought and one of the wettest June’s on record.

But, quality looks more variable and many reported problems with secondary tillering.

Wiltshire grower Josh Stratton started his Colossus and Saffron winter barley a week to 10 days earlier than usual, with pleasing results so far.

“We did about 75ha over the weekend and I’m very surprised at the yield. It came off at 18% moisture and the Colossus so far has done 8.5t/ha and the combine yield meter suggests Saffron’s giving about 8.2. This is close to the farm’s five-year rolling average of 8.2t/ha.

“The bushel weight is excellent – 66-67kg/hl. We often struggle to get that with six-rows,” he added.

Yields were also similar to last year for Brian Shaw in Bedfordshire. Around 80ha of Carat winter barley yielded 7-7.5t/ha. “It was reasonable, but I wasn’t expecting anything wonderful because we had no sunshine to finish it off. We desperately need some sun.”

Re-growth had been a significant problem, as all the later maturing tillers had been some way off being fit, while some of the crop was over-ripe. “It looked pretty indifferent, and it makes moisture contents pretty irrelevant this year.”

Similar problems affected Gareth Dixon’s six-row Sequel barley near Marlborough in Wiltshire. Crops were treated with pre-harvest Roundup (glyphosate) and grain was cleaned to take out small grains, he noted.

“We’re reasonably pleased with the bushel weight of about 67kg/hl, but it’s a very dull sample and there are no bold grains at all.” No average yields had yet been calculated, but Mr Dixon did not expect the crop to yield as well as normal.

While barley yields appear to have held up reasonably well in general, oilseed rape had not, according to Essex farmer Robert Stevenson.

He had cut about a fifth of his 180ha and the dry weather in April had clearly hit ES Astrid’s yield. “It’s done 25-28cwt/acre with moistures of 8.6-12%, so we have been drying. We haven’t had the quality tested yet, but there aren’t too many red seeds, and considering the ground it’s off, that’s not too bad. I’m reasonably happy.”

Keep track of harvest progress with FWi’s Harvest Highlights, which is updated daily and features reports from around the country. You can also view our Harvest 2007 picture gallery.

Harvest highlights 2007 is sponsored by RAGT.