This week’s fine weather has enabled combines to emerge for the first time across much of the country, with winter barley and oilseed rape crops finally underway.
Harvest was about 10 days later than normal but winter barley was now in full swing across southern and eastern areas, said a report by the HGCA.
“This may be one of the latest starts to harvest in recent years, with only an estimated 2-3% harvested up to Tuesday 24 July, compared to an average of 30% and an earliest of 75% at the same stage.”
Winter barley yields were about average so far, although early aphid Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus damage was causing some concern, said David Neale, national agronomist at Agrii.
With yields averaging about 7.4t/ha, and wheat and spring barley looking particularly poor, winter barley could be the crop of the year, he added.
That was certainly the case at William Cumber’s Manor Farm, Marcham, Oxfordshire, where yields had been surprisingly good.
“Our winter barley is on some of the most drought-prone sand imaginable,” he said.
“Last year’s yields were among the worst ever, but this year our worst field has done 7t/ha, with the best at 8.4t/ha.”
Sesame oilseed rape had also yielded well, apart from 6ha that was flooded for two weeks in May and failed completely.
Harvest was also well underway at Trerule Farm, Saltash, Cornwall, where Jon Bond had just started cutting Castille oilseed rape.
“I’d like to make a big hole in it before it rains again,” he said. “It looks quite promising at the moment, but I’m not sure it’s all fit.
“About half wasn’t desiccated because it was too far on – the other half I’ve sprayed off to even it up.”
At the other end of the country, James Walby was dodging the wet fields to combine winter barley today (27 July) at East House Farm, near Ponteland, Northumberland.
“We started on Monday (23 July), which is a bit later than normal,” he said. “The forecast isn’t very good, which is why we’re cracking on now.”