31 August 2001

End in sight for some, but yields disappoint

Harvest is home for some in the south of England with

wheat growers on light land chalking up the best yields

for once. However, patchy crops off heavy land have

dragged the averages under long-term mean for most. Spring

barley quality is generally good in England but rain has

caused serious quality concerns with the Scottish crop.

Our industry leading coverage continues with reports

from around the regions. Edited by Andrew Swallow

SOUTH

HARVEST is almost home with very variable wheat yields according to soil type. Overall volume is down, but quality good.

At Ewhurst Park Estate, Ramsdell, near Basingstoke, farm manager Tony Bayliss reckons he should finish wheat during the week – weather permitting.

"The quality of milling wheat Hereward is fantastic," he reports. Proteins range from 13.5-15.5%, Hagbergs are 300-350 and specific weights are 79-81kg/hl. Also encouraging are very low background levels of ergot, which was a problem last year.

"But our yields are down on last year. Claire has done 8.7t/ha in a second wheat position." Spring oilseed rape is not ready for combining yet.

Barometer grower Tim Lock at Houghton Farm, near Arundel, has finished wheat and hopes to wrap up 40ha (100 acres) of spring beans this week, followed by 20ha of late drilled winter beans next week and a remainder of spring barley.

"Its been a very average year." Charger grown on the top of the Downs was quite pleasing at 7.5-8t/ha, but yields from heavier land were disappointing. "The quality is quite good though. Bushel weights have been a pleasant surprise," he adds.

In Kent, Dalgetys Phillip Noyce describes the wheat harvest as a mixed bag. "Most of it is combined now. Yields are very sporadic, from 5t/ha to 11t/ha. Results are linked to soil type rather than variety."

Quality started well, but later bushel weights and proteins of soft wheats have fallen. "Hagbergs are holding up. Spring barley, most of which will be cut this week, is suffering from high screenings in this area."

Most peas are coming in just below 5t/ha, he adds. "And they wont be attracting much of a quality premium."

In Berks, Peter Fleming is just finishing wheat. He says his results are disappointing. "Yields are nothing special, but not as bad as we feared. Consort has done 9-10t/ha, but Escort oilseed rape at 3.6t/ha did better than last year. "Like everyone, there were some patchy problem areas. Crops that went in on time in the autumn did reasonably well. But therell be no records broken."

WEST

GROWERS were relieved to get combines rolling again last week, working into the early hours when conditions permitted. However, early morning mists and showers continue to hamper progress and raise quality concerns.

In a bid to get on in Glos, barometer grower Tim Morris of Coneygar Farm, Quenington, called in contractors to clear wheat off contract-managed land.

"Its cost us dearly but at least the corn didnt require drying. Weve taken 425 acres at just over 3t/acre. Effectively yields are back to where we were before strobs came out. Bushels weights of 72-76kg/hl are normal for our Cotswold soils."

Now all that remains is the 4ha (10 acres) of oilseed rape abandoned earlier in the campaign. "Weve the combine to wash-off first to avoid bringing blackgrass home."

Peter Bawn, farm manager for Garnons Estate, Byford, Herefordshire kept going to 1.30am on Monday morning.

"Despite the wet, Claire has done well at 4t/acre. Were heading for the best harvest for years." That is with specific weights of 74kg/hl, down on previous years 78-80kg/hl. Savannah didnt yield well, he adds.

At Whitchurch, Shropshire Robin Huxley has 65% of winter wheat in store after a frantic few days. "Over 600 acres have been cut. Yields are down 10% on the five-year average at 3t/acre for Soissons and Consort. But thats what we expected."

Further north, grower Richard Reeves was waiting for showers to abate at Tattondale Farm, Knutsford, earlier this week. "Challice spring barley and Quattro spring beans are fit. I just want to get this harvest finished, its been bad from start to finish."

IN THE BARN (TUE)

W wheat 40%

S barley 25%

S Beans 5%

Catchy weather persists.

Most wheat yields down.

Pinched grain hits quality.

MIDLANDS

HARVEST is home for many in the south of the region, but most have suffered variable quality and yields below average.

"Its a year of extremes," says Glencores Robert Kerr. "Were seeing huge variation on nearly everything – yield, Hagberg, protein and specific weight."

That is echoes by Bucks grower Colin Rayner. "Where its good its good, but where its bad its really bad." Claire drilled in good conditions yielded 10.6t/ha (4.28t/acre) yet some which suffered persistent rain post-drilling made only 5t/ha (2t/acre). He expects his average wheat yield to be 2t/ha (0.8t/acre) down at 6t/ha (2.42t/acre) overall.

In Northants, Brixworth Farming Companys Charles Matts also reports mixed yields and quality. "Weve done all the milling wheat and its been very variable, yields ranging from 7-12t/ha, protein 11.5-12.5% and specific weight 70-79kg/hl. Where crops were established well in good time theyve yielded well, when theyve gone in badly and late they havent, its as simple as that."

Near Luton, barometer grower Brian Shaw confirms a similar trend. "First wheat Consort and Claire drilled in good time did about 4t/acre, second wheat Consort, Option and Charger were closer to 3t/acre with some badly sown ones doing just under that. We expect 0.5t/acre more."

One pleasant surprise was a hybrid second wheat which did that but late sown Chariot and Optic spring barley was also 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) down on normal at 3.7-4.9t/ha (1.5t-2.0/acre).

But it is not all bad news. On the Cotswolds, Nick Bumford of Guiting Manor Farms, was pleased with Optic spring barley and Gerald oats. "The barley is a lovely looking sample and made 2.8t/acre, while the oats, not grown on the farm for 5 years, yielded 3t/acre with a specific weight of 51-52kg/hl."

Yields for farm manager Marcus Fuller at Tiln Farms, Retford, Notts, were not as disappointing as expected, Claire and Charger hitting the five-year average for the farm.

Glos grower Clive Handy is also pleased with yields. "Claire, Malacca and Consort grown mostly on Cotswold Brash is 5-8cwt/acre less than the average for the previous two years, but given the season, Im pleased."

Harvest at Hamish Morison Farming, West Morriston in Berwickshire, was at a standstill earlier this week and for once the weather was not to blame.

Combines finished Prisma spring barley on Sunday and it will be the end of the week before September-drilled Consort is ready, says farm manager Les Anderson.

It is a welcome break allowing the last oilseed rape to be sown, as planned, after the early spring barley.

After disappointing winter barley and winter oilseed rape yields, the Prisma was on par at 6.3t/ha (2.6t/acre). Nitrogen content is not yet known, but Mr Anderson believes it will meet the malting contract.

"The sample looks superb without dressing. There are very few screenings on a 2.25mm screen and nothing like 10% on a 2.5mm – we have our own sieves so we know exactly what were selling."

Early April-sown Optic is about 10 days from being fit on more exposed land at Lauder and should yield more. "If we are lucky well get 3t/acre."

Of the winter barley, six-rows Siberia and Manitou shaded Intro for yield at 6.8t/ha (2.75t/acre) to Intros 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre). Normal yields for the farm are 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre) and 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) respectively.

Oilseed rape was equally ordinary, with the exception of hybrid variety Pronto. "That did 30cwt/acre dried, but Contact, Inca and Fortress averaged only 24cwt dried and in the bin." Average for the farm over the past five years, admittedly with conventional varieties, is 3.4t/ha (27-28cwt/acre).

Wheat yield prospects are only average, better looking light land crops hopefully compensating for poor crops on heavy ground, he says. With 195ha (480 acres) to cut, plus 37ha (91 acres) of spring wheat and 64ha (158 acres) of spring barley, a finish in the last week of September seems likely even after some go-faster glyphosate application.

"Four or five of the later sown fields would never ripen unless we help them along a bit." Green straw, blamed on a total 0.85 litres/ha of strobilurin applied in flag and ear sprays, is much more noticeable than in recent years, he adds.

NORTH

WET nights have limited progress despite sunny days. In the south of the region, a good start has been made on wheat while in the north some winter barley and oilseed rape remains uncut.

Variable wheat yields and the overnight rain are leading to variable quality with Driffield-based grower Richard Beechall reporting a marked difference in proteins between his first and second Malacca wheat.

"The first wheat yielded more than 4t/acre but that diluted protein levels, which were down to 12.3%. As a second wheat the yield average was 3.8t/acre but the protein was around 13.3% so hopefully there will not be much economic difference between the two."

Hagbergs held in the Malacca but collapsed in his Claire due to 2-3% of the crop sprouting. "It only takes one or two grains in a sample to reduce Hagbergs – they were below 100."

Near Doncaster, Peter Smith says he has never seen yields so erratic, with crops of the same variety fluctuating in bulk and quality from field to field, points echoed by ADAS consultant and North Yorks grower Julian Thirsk.

"Yields are all over the place. Some reasonable-looking fields produced disappointing results. I put it down to poor root establishment on heavier land because of the autumn floods, followed by near drought conditions in May and June."

In East Yorks, independent consultant Chris Rigley says Hereward wheat is performing well with yields at 8.6-9.3t/ha (3.5-3.75t/acre) and proteins at about 13.5%.

But spring barley yields are down by 5-10% despite good quality and many bold samples being offered. Later winter barleys have been hit by the weather, he adds.

"Some varieties, particularly Pearl and Regina, have suffered from sprouting – they have ended up in the feed bin."

Most wheat is still a week away in Northumberland, but spring barley has been cut, says grower Sandy Mole, from near Berwick. Quality is good at about 1.4% nitrogen but yields are about 10% down on average.

SOUTH-WEST

WHEAT off chalk is the top performer, but fusarium fears are mounting for spring barley in the west of the region.

Rebecca Webbers wheat yields at Winterborne Kingston, Dorset, are typical, light chalk land crops beating those on heavier and gravely ground. Claire and Malacca off the chalk did 10.6t/ha (4.3t/acre), 2t/ha above normal but overall she expects yields to average close to the long-term average of 8.1t/ha (3.3t/acre).

That is typical across Dorset, says Dalgetys Robin Webb. "Wheat yields have been very heavy on light chalk land in the north of the county but it is the absolute opposite on heavy land to the west of Dorch-ester. There really is a big variance."

Generally quality is reasonable, proteins typically 12.5%, specific weight 77-78kg/hl and no evidence of low Hagbergs, he adds.

Wessex Grains Owen Cligg reports similar, if more variable wheats. "Ive seen Hagberg on Malacca as low as 155, but most is still over 250."

Spring barley quality is more mixed, says Mr Webb. "Nitrogen between 1.6-1.7% is common but there is some splitting, screenings are variable and there is some fusarium in samples."

However, Dorset grower Bob Rowe reports no such problem with his spring barley, early-drilled crops yielding 7t/ha (2.8t/acre) and April-drilled 5.5t/ha (2.2t/acre). Nitouche and Selector peas did 4.5-5.5t/ha (1.8-2.2t/acre) off 150ha (370 acres) and wheat yields are also above average on his chalk soil.

"Claire was the worst on yield at 10t/ha (4t/acre). Malacca and Savannah topped that which is exceptional for a season like weve had this year."

SCOTLAND

WIDESPREAD reports of splitting and skinning in the main malting varieties of spring barley are causing real concern among growers and the trade.

Barometer grower Tom Robbs experience at Pitmaduthy Farm, near Invergordon, Ross-shire, is typical of the problems being encountered.

Mr Robb, who made a start last weekend, says: "Yield is good, but quality is appalling." Chalice is doing about 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre), Optic nearer 7.4t/ha (3t/acre). Nitrogen is 1.6% after dressing but rain pushed harvest back 10 days jeopardising malting quality.

"We normally get about 15mm in July. This year it was nearly 60mm. There are reports from all over the region of major problems with splitting, skinning, ergot and fusarium."

At nearby Tain, James Gordon cut 80ha (200 acres) of spring barley last weekend. Yields of Chalice and Optic are about normal at 6.2-6.9t/ha (2.5-2.8t/acre) with 1.55% nitrogen and 4% screenings but torrential rain in early August, combined with heat, has caused splitting and skinning.

Dalgety sales manager Bruce Fergusson confirms the extent of the problem. "Spring barley so far is a real mixed bag. There is a lot of splitting and skinning and a lot of fusarium. We are having to assess every sample very carefully."

And the quality problems are not confined to the north of Scotland, he adds. "It seems to be everywhere."

Early winter wheats have been cut in central areas and although yields are expected to be low, quality looks good.

Continued on page 54

Harvest in France has finished with generally satisfactory quality, but in Germany it is becoming clear there are some serious problems in the north, writes Glencore Grains Rotterdam-based trader Peter Williams.

Low Hagberg numbers are reported from most parts of Germany and cargoes of feed wheat are being sold. As much as 40% of the crop has Hagbergs below 200 in some areas. However, there is a healthy demand for feed wheat in Germany and Denmark, so this phenomenon may not weigh on the market for too long. Yields are holding up well with a 22.5m tonne crop still the popular consensus, nearly 1m t up on last year.

Danish farmers and merchants also report bumper yields due to kind weather conditions. Some feed wheat has been harvested in Jutland, but quality from Zeeland continues to be very good with protein above 11% and specific weight and Hagbergs high. A break in the weather late last week caused some concern for the balance of wheat and spring barley but with 75% in the barn this week should see harvest complete.

Sweden looks set to produce its second successive first class wheat harvest with protein averaging over 11.5% in Tarso and Kosack. Harvesting is all but complete in the south and close to half way in northern regions. Specific weight looks like repeating last years 78-79kg/hl and there should be no problem in exporting the 0.9-1m t surplus. Spring barley harvest is virtually complete with quality also good.

Finlands harvest has a couple of weeks to run on spring wheat and barley. Early reports on the all-important oat harvest are good allowing exports to the US horse market.

EAST ANGLIA

DAWN-TO-DUSK sunshine has seen the bulk of the wheat cleared with just late-drilled crops and bits of spring barley, peas and beans to mop up. Yields are variable with huge differences reported even within fields.

Banks Cargills Richard Whitlock says 85% of wheat south of the Wash was combined by last weekend, but the end result is still too difficult to call.

Philip Darke of Camgrain adds: "Yields are all over the place, some late-drilled second wheat has been down to 1t/acre, some up to 4.5t. Generally wheat is 10-15% down on normal. We have 10,000t out of a total of 90,000t still to come and expect yield to average 3.25t/acre."

In Suffolk, Jonathan Slater is three-quarters through his 400ha (1000 acres). "Looks deceive. Crops that appear to be yielding 4t/acre at the cutter bar end up at 3t in the tank. This is the first season I have had a weigher on the combine I have not wanted to see what is happening."

Many growers share his wish to forget the 2001 season, such as Andrew Clark who hopes to finish wheat and be into spring oats on his Essex farm by the weekend.

"We have the remnants of 480 acres to do, yields are 0.5t/acre down on normal but the end result will not be as bad as feared. First crop Claire and Option have done 3.5t, Charger 3t as second wheat. Specific weight is down but most is over 76kg/ha and Charger and Option are in the 80s, with 250-300 Hagbergs and 12.5-13% proteins."

In Norfolk, barometer grower Stuart Knight has finished winter wheat. Considering the terrible season he is pleased it yielded over the 10.5t/ha budget. First crop Consort and Claire did 10.5-12.5t/ha, second crop Consort, Savannah and Equinox 8.5t/ha. Megane peas also pleased doing 5.2t/ha across 20ha (50 acres). "I will be into 100 acres of spring wheat at the end of the week."

But Cambs grower Duncan Boughton is disappointed with peas. "My 53 acres of Selector did not do as well as expected, they produced just under 2t/acre of pale coloured peas."

N IRELAND

COMBINES have been flat out in fine weather with a start made on winter wheat. However, late-sown crops suffered in the humid conditions of preceding days.

Barometer grower Mark McFerran from Newtownards was into mid-January drilled Riband winter wheat earlier this week. Yield is not expected to be more than 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) but the crop is not the disaster it could have been.

"We must be grateful for the 3.3t/acre from the early-drilled wheat, but at 22% it took a lot of drying," he says. Potato harvest and winter wheat drilling will start later this week.

Throughout Ulster, protracted winter wheat drilling dates are expected to impact on yields and in Co Londonderry, like many others, John Gilliland is concerned about fusarium in winter wheat.

"Overall the winter wheat looks good but it was sown over five months, October to February. Im not too hopeful about the late-drilled fields which have been hit by fusarium."

Hes been spurred on by the good weather, taking spring barley and winter wheat that should really be left another week, he says. "Weve been cutting at 10 days after Roundup when ideally it should be left another four days."

Riviera and Crusader spring barley performed "exceptionally well" with bushel weights of 70kg/hl. &#42

&#8226 Varplan results on page 55.