As the UK wheat harvest progressed in catchy weather earlier this week, Scotland seemed to be faring better than parts of eastern England, where sprouting was an increasing concern in remaining crops.
“We’re still on for one of our earliest harvests for over a decade,” said SAC principal crop consultant Keith Dawson on Tuesday (29 August).
“For the first time in 25 years people have been cutting wheat before spring barley.”
Dr Dawson estimated about 40% of Scotland’s wheat was already cut.
“We’re well ahead of schedule.
“There have been some good yields, too.
I wouldn’t swap Scottish crops for any others in the EU this year.”
Scottish Borders farmer Les Anderson, with only 10% of his 200ha (500 acres) of wheat left to cut, was reporting “super quality and fantastic yields”.
Dr Dawson admitted there was still plenty of spring barley to cut; and after only two days’ combining in the past 12 there were fears, especially in Aberdeenshire, that some wheat varieties, notably Istabraq and Glasgow, might sprout.
But no visible signs had been reported, as many crops had only recently ripened, he explained.
That was in marked contrast to parts of East Anglia where growers were striving to wrap up the crop.
Norfolk grower William Donald reckoned he was far from alone in the area in having about 40% of his crop uncut, some of which was well sprouted.
Downham Market-based Nick Pratt had managed only five days’ combining in August after recording 146mm (5.7in) of rain and described harvest as “a mighty struggle”.
Nijinsky was showing most sprouting, he noted.
“It’s a pity because the yields had been good.”
Dalgety’s Barry Barker estimated that in places there was still 10-15% of the crop east of the A1 to cut, with the suspicion that it was farms trying to stretch combining capacity that were hardest hit.
“The picture in Lincolnshire is probably a little better.”
Camgrain’s Philip Darke agreed large-scale growers and contractors had been most affected by the unsettled weather.
Of the co-op’s 300 members, about 50 still had large areas to cut on Tuesday.
“I’ve seen a lot of crops that have gone down, and some look like they’ve had an iron over them.
“I haven’t seen a harvest like this for 20 years – I thought we’d finish two weeks ago, but the wet August changed that.
“We’re getting a lot of wet grain in – for the last two weeks moisture contents have averaged 23%.
There are also roots on many crops, with Gladiator being particularly bad.”
Most spring barley and Group 1 milling wheats were cut before the rain, but Hagbergs in the remaining Robigus, Consort and Claire were unlikely to exceed 62-70kg/hl.
“A year like this highlights the lack of infrastructure in UK farming.
If you can cope with grain at 20-25%, you’ll get it in.
But it’s those who have to wait for it to come down to 16-17% who will really struggle.”
Grainfarmers’ Mark Worrell estimated 45% of Yorkshire wheats had yet to see the combine and Hagbergs were plummeting.
“Sprouting is becoming an issue, particularly on the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Wolds.
“We have seen some sub-100 Hagbergs in the soft wheats.”
Faced with the choice of standing or laid crops both Dr Dawson and Mr Barker advised tackling unlodged ones first to preserve what quality was left.