Growers have been left counting the cost of heavy rain and flooding after over 125mm (5in) rain fell in parts of central and southern England last week.
The west Midlands and the Thames valley were particularly badly affected, but growers in many regions – even those that escaped the worst of the rain – are struggling with saturated soils.
Richard Beldam near Evesham thought he had been “incredibly fortunate” to have only lost 20 acres of wheat after the river Avon burst its banks. Just 150 acres of his 1,000 acres of oilseed rape had been cut so far, and combining had to be held-off as the ground was too wet. “We’re going to have to try and run the trailers just on the headlands,” he noted.
Farmers Weekly Farmer Focus writer Richard Ward said he had already had the usual annual rainfall and was on his way to pick up a set of wide combine wheels today (23 July).
Most flood water had drained away and he was surprised by how well wheat crops had coped with the downpours. “I’m stunned by how the wheat has stood up. Only some of the beans and oats look like they have taken a battering.”
Nick Oakhill from Glencore also thought wheat crops had fared reasonably well. “Some has lodged, but what’s standing looks ok.”
He estimated that 15-20% of winter barley and oilseed rape had been cut so far, compared with nearer 50% by this stage in the summer normally. “The quality of winter barley hasn’t been the prettiest, but it’s technically sound. We are concerned about what’s going to happen with quality from now onwards though.”
Oilseed rape had started to chit in the pods on Edward Whitfield’s farm near Spalding. He had harvested about 80ha (200 acres) of Castille, Lioness and Astrid oilseed rape with yields of 3-4.2t/ha (27-34 cwt/acre) depending on how his crops had been affected by hail and heavy thunderstorms.
Yorkshire farmer Andrew Middlewood said he had cut about a third of his Pearl winter barley, but his Castille oilseed rape remained uncut. He was prepared to cut the rape at 13-14% moisture to avoid seed chitting in the pods, but more rain had raised the water table and caused ponding and wet holes, making combining really difficult.
“You can’t even travel down the tramlines,” he commented.
But progress was much better in Northern Ireland, where Farmers Weekly’s barometer farmer James Wray was well into combining his 28ha of Pearl winter barley this morning.
“We’ve had fantastic weather over the weekend,” he said. “We started yesterday and have done about 12 acres. I reckon the first field did about 3.4t/acre. That’s not too bad, but I reckon it would have been higher if we hadn’t had such a wet winter.”
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