30 August 2002

Early ripening wheat brings a Scots headache

WHEAT has ripened early in parts of Scotland, causing problems for growers still struggling to gather spring barleys during patchy weather.

Reports from growers that both quality and yield have been better than expected in some areas are offset by trader feedback suggesting high screenings are likely to be common.

Indeed, there are rumours that maltsters may relax their standards this year, says Alan Macaulay of Allied Grain at Berwick.

"Screenings vary from 5% right up to 25%. I blame the changeable weather and the lack of sunshine, with Perth and some parts of Aberdeen being the worst hit."

Mr Macaulay has seen a huge variation in the spring barley cut between the Borders and Central Scotland and reckoned there was still two-thirds of the crop left to harvest on Tuesday.

Andy Stirrat is drying spring barley and wheat at the same time, a rare event on his farm at Rhynd, near Perth. He estimates wheat has ripened about four days earlier than normal.

Although delighted with the performance of both Decanter and Chalice barley, he admits high screenings are headaches for some neighbours. Both varieties have averaged 6.2-6.7t/ha (2.5-2.7t/acre) with screenings about 10% on a 2.5mm screen.

SAC cereals specialist David Cranstoun blames the high screenings on heavy green leaf losses earlier and estimates average levels at 14%, about double those of a normal season.

In Easter Ross, a run of decent weather has lifted the spirits of David Houghton, based at Meddat Farm, Invergordon. "Almost half my spring barley has been cut and yields have been average to good at 2-2.5t/acre," he says.

"In contrast with last season, quality has also been surprisingly high. Optic has been in the 1.4-1.5% nitrogen range with screenings of just 3-5%. I am just starting on 130 acres of Chalice."

In East Lothian, former farmers weekly barometer farmer James Grant-Suttie of Balgone Farms has about one quarter of his spring barley left to harvest and most of his neighbours have already started on wheat. Barley yields have been slightly above average at 6.2-6.7t/ha (2.5-2.75t/acre).

"It has been a frustrating, stop/start harvest and the barley has ripened late," he says. "Screenings have ranged from 8-16%. That is a problem but at the moment I am just concentrating on getting it all in because there are 400 acres of Claire, Consort and Riband ready to cut as well."

Bad weather has hampered progress for farmers south of Edinburgh, some of whom have wheat ready to harvest, says Nick Baxter of Allied Grain. He predicts there may be a struggle with specific weights.

"Farmers have been very disappointed with their cereal crops in general. Malacca has been averaging 72-73kg/hl and we are hoping the market will be able to find a home for that sort of quality. In a low bushel weight year, there are concerns about yields as well, but so far standing crops are looking good." &#42

SCOTSHARVEST

&#8226 Wheat/spring barley clash.

&#8226 High barley screenings.

&#8226 Dull weather earlier to blame.

&#8226 Wheat specific weight struggle.