Harvest round-up: An end in sight - Farmers Weekly

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Harvest round-up: An end in sight

More settled weather should bring a return to harvest this weekend, with farmers keen to clear up remaining crops.

Over the past week, harvest had made slow progress, with wet weather meaning growers cut just 3% of the combinable crop area.

That brought the total harvest to 92% complete by Tuesday (17 September), according to the latest ADAS / HGCA report, leaving spring barley, wheat, oilseed rape and pulses left to combine.

In Yorkshire, contractor Chris Smith was waiting for a dry break in the weather near Easingwold, so he could combine the final 30ha of April-sown winter wheat.

Harvest had been extremely variable, but overall, wheat and winter barley had yielded about average, with spring barley and oilseed rape exceeding expectations, he said.

“Surprisingly, the April-drilled winter wheat has done nearly as well as you’d expect from crops drilled at the proper time – many have done around 7.4t/ha and quality has been excellent.”

In Wales, Meurig Raymond had still got 93ha of spring-planted winter wheat to cut at Trenewydd Fawr, Haverfordwest, Dyfed, as well as 12ha of spring beans.

“The wheat is only just coming ripe – it will be interesting to see how it yields, given it was planted in the last 10 days of February,” he said. “It’s short, but the heads look promising.”

Santiago and Diego winter wheat had yielded well, averaging about 9t/ha at almost 80kghl, and ranging from 7.4t/ha on light land to 12.4t/ha on stronger soil.

Further south, Tony Higgins had finished harvest at Middlegate Farm, Pitney, Somerset, and was very disappointed with his yields.

“We managed to get most of the winter wheat drilled in the autumn, but it suffered from the continuous wet weather, and then the hot June hit crops exceptionally hard on our stoney brash soils,” he said.

Claire, Diego and Santiago wheat averaged about 6.8t/ha, with spring-drilled winter wheat yielding 5.6t/ha. “It actually paid better than the winter-sown crops as the spray bills were less.”

In Kent, late-planted Westminster spring barley performed exceptionally well at Hinxstone Farm, Benenden, Kent, despite being sown as an afterthought.

“We were meant to plant winter cereals but didn’t get them all drilled,” said Graham Westacott.

Planted on 5 May with a view to feeding it as a wholecrop, the first 16ha yielded so well that he left the remaining 4ha to combine – and got a surprising 7.4t/ha.

Tybalt spring wheat, sown after maize, also did well, yielding 6.8t/ha. “All the spring crops did well – but the winter wheat was very patchy.”

Harvest round-up: An end in sight?

Heavy downpours continue to disrupt harvest and fieldwork efforts, although a better forecast could enable work to resume over the weekend.

According to the latest ADAS report, farmers had less than 5% of their crops left to harvest across the UK by Tuesday (25 September).

However, in Scotland there was still 40% of the wheat and 20% of the spring barley to cut, alongside oats and other break crops.

And this week’s heavy rain was making life difficult for farmers across much of the country.

In Yorkshire, fields had flooded at Holme House, Holme on Spalding Moor, but at least Catherine Thompson had finished harvest.

“I drilled some winter barley on Saturday and now it’s flooded – the only reason we drilled that field is because we couldn’t travel on the fields it was meant to go into,” she said.

“We’re on heavy clay here and it’s far too wet to plough now – I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Further south, Philip Gorringe still had grass seed and wheat to cut at Blakemere Farm, Blakemere, Herefordshire, but was confident that quality would still be usable.

“We’re just about under water here,” he said. “We had three inches of rain at the beginning of the week. But the crops are still viable for seed, if I can get at them.”

In Northern Ireland, Gerald Erwin was pleased to have finished harvest at Nutts Corner, Crumlin, County Antrim, but said there were still 10-15% of crops to cut in the area.

“Thankfully we had a smaller acreage this year, so were a bit over-combined,” he said. “We would normally cut 200-245ha but only did 140-160ha this year.”

Many farmers were either moving into, or already well through potato harvest – and yields were disappointing across the EU, said a report by the Potato Council.

Production in the five leading countries was likely to be 14.5% down on last season, with reduced plantings and a yield drop contributing to the drop.

“Extreme weather conditions have been commonplace, with variable yields, sizes, quality and availability among the resulting key concerns experienced this year.”

Harvest round-up: An end in sight

Harvest has drawn to a close for many farmers across much of the UK, although there is still a mix of wheat, barley and beans to cut.

In Scotland, Jim MacFarlane only had 3ha of wheat left to cut at Edrington Mains, Edington, although low bushel weights and green straw had let the crop down and was making it difficult to combine.

“Combining had been hard and slow,” he said.

Further south, Michael Manners had finished cereals and was harvesting potatoes at Conicliffe Grange, Darlington.

He reckoned yields were down by 3.75 t/ha across his 272ha of wheat, while rotten potatoes were slowing progress on his potato harvester.

In Essex, Tim Cooper was concerned for his potatoes too, and a lack of rain was proving worrying for his rapeseed at Spring Farm, Wix.

“We’re going to put slug pellets on tomorrow (20 September) and then spray the volunteers,” he said.

“It’s drying out quickly on top but when you’re only planting 50 seeds per square metre it’s hard not to lose some.”

In Warwickshire, Joe Scott, farm manager for Ashby Ledger Farms, Rugby, was hopeful for his crop of maize left to harvest.

“Despite sitting for about six weeks following drilling in April, it’s taken off. I just hope the starch yield is good,” he said.

Tim Payne, farm manager at Hyde-Parker Farms, Long Melford, Suffolk, thought his crops had done fairly well, with an extra spray on some first wheats making all the difference.

“A spray after T3 on Oakley left the crop with a bushel weight of 73-75 kg/hl. People are biting my arm off for it.”

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