Wheat and spring barley harvest is now under way, and early indications of yields are excellent. However, milling wheat quality is suffering, with protein contents on the low side due to the yield dilution.

In Cambridgeshire, wheat harvest was eight days ahead of normal, with 30,000t of new crop into the Camgrain store so far, said managing director Philip Darke. “Some of the wheat yields are just ballistic, ranging from 8t/ha on poorer ground to 13t/ha on stronger land.”

Bushel weights were good, comfortably averaging 80kg/hl, and Hagberg Falling Numbers were also fine, said Mr Darke. “But protein contents are low – in the low 10s percent where farmers haven’t chased protein and about 12.5% where they have.”

Oilseed rape yields were about average, but winter barley yields had been excellent, he added. “There are some really big yields – plenty of people are getting 10t/ha with Venture, Volume and Glacier. But nitrogen contents are, as expected, on the low side.”

Read also: Leaf spot to blame for poor OSR yields

Early winter barley crops had burnt off, so suffered from low bushel weights and high levels of screenings, said Stuart Shand, sales director at Gleadell Agriculture. But later crops were much better, and malting quality was good, with all varieties averaging between 14.4% and 14.9% moisture, 65.3-67kg/hl, 1.58-1.75% nitrogen and 88-93% screenings retained.

Spring barley harvest was also under way across much of the UK, with the early Null-Lox varieties the first to be cut. “Yields and quality are fantastic – we have had farmers reporting record yields, which is good news when we’ve got these low prices,” said Mr Shand.

Spring barley yields ranged from 6t/ha on lighter land to 9.5t/ha on better ground, with nitrogen contents between 1.4% and 1.6%, and screening rentention at 85-98% over a 2.5mm sieve.

Lodging was a problem in some wheat, spring barley and winter oat crops, particularly after the heavy thunderstorms that hit the South and East of England this week, said a report by HGCA. “Oats in Yorkshire were also badly affected, with an estimated 10% of the regional area lodged.”

HGCA trials showed that winter barley yields were more than 1t/ha above the five-year average, at 10.02t/ha, with six-row varieties still heading the yield table. Volume had yielded 106% compared with the control varieties, with the conventional variety KWS Meridian at 105%, said recommended list manager Simon Oxley.

Two-row feed varieties were also performing well, with California at 103%, KWS Glacier 102% and KWS Tower 101%. “Malting varieties are more about quality than yield, but Talisman has achieved yields of 97% and SY venture 95% to date.”

Oilseed rape yields were also slightly better than the four-year average yield of 5.39t/ha, at 5.65t/ha so far. Adjusted for oil content, the restored hybrid variety Incentive was performing well with a gross output of 109%, with the conventional open pollinated variety Charger at 107%.

However, in many commercial crops, oilseed rape continued to come in below expectations. In Cornwall, Mike Hambly had finished combining PR46W21 at Wescott Barton, Callington, and was very disappointed with the yields. “The worst of it yielded 2.5t/ha and the best did 3.7t/ha,” he said. “We’ve never had such weedy stubbles; we used the usual herbicide programme but perhaps it didn’t work because it was so wet.”

According to Agrii OSR specialist Philip Marr, light leaf spot was the main reason for the disappointing performance of many oilseed rape crops this season, with LLS infections causing yield losses of 30-50%, through a combination of small seeds and premature pod opening.

“From widespread leaf spotting as the weather warmed up in the spring, it has progressed into the most severe stem blotching I’ve ever seen on susceptible varieties, coupled with serious pod lesions in many crops,” he said.

However, some crops had fulfilled their potential. Andy Hull was very pleased with his Cubic oilseed rape, which yielded 3-3.5t/ha at Dean Farm, Fareham, Hampshire. “We’re halfway through harvest already; it’s really been a textbook year,” he said.

“We harvested Sorrial – an early French milling wheat that we’re growing for seed – on 22 July,” he said “Grown as a second wheat it yielded 9.3t/ha.

Dungait

“Brand new combine , going like a train and not a cloud in the sky… this is what harvest is all about,” says David Dungait of Hebron in Northumberland. “Pearl malting barley was coming off at 17% moisture and yielding just over 9 t/ha. The same crop last year only averaged 6t/ha but, as our grain trader says, always look at your five-year average,” says David.

Paton

James Paton took this picture of a Claas Lexion 480 with a V750 header cutting winter oilseed rape at about 9%.

Palmer

David Palmer captured this image of a Claas Lexion 780 cutting oilseed rape at Risby in Suffolk.

See also: All the news, videos and harvest resources on our Harvest Highlights page.