Wheat and spring barley harvest is beginning to get under way, with first indications of quality looking extremely variable.

In Kent, 75% of milling wheat loads were falling short of the required standards, said John Smith at Weald Granary.

“Bushel weight is the deciding factor 90% of the time, with significant amounts of milling varieties borderline on quality,” he said.

It was a similar story in Hampshire, with none of the wheat taken into Hampshire Grain yet making full milling quality, said manager Mike Clay.

“Protein contents are reasonable, but Hagbergs and bushel weights are down,” he said.

“There are lots of shrivelled grains, but screenings are alright – if they were high we could clean the samples up and boost the bushel weights, but that’s not an option.”

Intakes at Aylsham Grain in Norfolk had been full pelt this week, with all crops ripening at once.

“People have been cutting winter barley, oilseed rape, spring barley and wheat over the weekend – and they want it all moved,” said manager Andrew Dewing.

“But when it comes in intense bursts like that, you just can’t get enough haulage.”

With about 5% of the wheat cut, yields were 15-20% below farmers’ hopes, but spring barley yields and quality were far more promising, he said.

Further west, harvest was progressing slowly in the West Midlands and Wales, with ground conditions still proving tricky.

“We’ve cut some winter barley and oilseed rape here and there, where we’ve been able to travel,” said Rob Bebbington at Fieldfare Farms, Whitchurch, Shropshire.

“It’s pretty wet underfoot; there have just been combines stuck up to the axles all over the place.”

Conditions were still pretty wet in Scotland, but James Grant-Suttie had finished cutting winter barley at Balgone Farms, North Berwick, East Lothian, with pleasing results.

Oilseed rape had been sprayed off for almost three weeks, but he wasn’t in any great rush to cut it, given the lack of dry sunny weather.

“That said, being in Scotland you can’t afford to miss your opportunity, so we’re not being too complacent.”