Autumnal days aren’t conducive to rapid harvesting, but farmers have made great strides over the past week, with combines going flat out across much of the country.

In the East and South, many farmers have finished wheat and are moving into the final few crops of beans and linseed. “Spring beans look as though they’re yielding quite well,” said Charles Roberts at GH Grain, Kent. “Quality is better than last year, too.”

However, elsewhere there are still plenty of cereals to combine. In Derbyshire, James Chamberlain still had three parcels of wheat and barley that were too wet to cut at Glebe Farm, Shardlow. “The combine just keeps sinking,” he said. “It’s not a huge area, but it’s several hundreds of pounds worth of crop which we can’t get.”

Yields had been reasonable, with Solstice at 8t/ha and 72kg/hl. “The light land has definitely been better this year.”

Wheat finally started to arrive at Honey Pot Grain Store, Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, at the end of last week, and bushel weights were very low, said store manager Simon Schaanning. “Very little will make the milling grade – we did have seven silos set aside for milling wheat, now we’re down to three.”

Milling wheat was still in the field at Fieldfare Farms, Whitchurch, Shropshire, and Rob Bebbington did not hold out much hope for it. “It was ready three weeks ago, so it will be feed quality by the time it comes in.” Yields had been poor across the board, with spring barley and wheat looking shrivelled, he said. “It’s been very disappointing.”

“You can put all the sprays and fertilisers on that you want, but if the sun doesn’t shine you can’t do anything about it.”
Charles Davidson

But in County Down, Northern Ireland, spring barley had yielded well, and harvest was almost complete after a week of frenetic activity. Although very little wheat had been drilled, what there was had been pretty poor, said Charles Davidson at North Down Grain. “You can put all the sprays and fertilisers on that you want, but if the sun doesn’t shine you can’t do anything about it.”

Farmers had also made good progress in South West England, said Ian Eastwood, marketing manager at West Country Grain. “Quality hasn’t improved much – and most farmers have resigned themselves to being 20% down on wheat yield.” Mills were lowering their intake specifications to account for poor bushel weights. “But you need to know exactly what you’ve got and market it accordingly – don’t just put it on a lorry and hope for the best.”

In Yorkshire, farmers had about 10-20% of wheat left to cut as Farmers Weekly went to press, and Steve Dawson was pleased with a yield of 7.7t/ha from second wheat Duxford, especially as many crops in the area were only achieving 5t/ha. But drilling conditions were less appealing. “We’ve had to change our cultivation tactics drastically,” he said. “It’s going to be a real waiting game to get the conditions right.”

Over the border in Scotland, Ian Moncrieff had almost finished combining spring barley at Berry Hill Farm, Dundee, and was now moving into winter wheat. “Most of the spring barley has been cleared around here,” he said. “But there’s a lot of wheat to do.”

In contrast, farmers had only just started spring barley in Caithness, said Alec Webster at Lower Reiss Farm. “It’s mostly spring crops up here, so there’s really not very much harvest been done yet. We are behind, but not by a huge amount.”

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