A hot combine exhaust has been blamed for starting a fire that destroyed thousands of pounds worth of winter barley on a Wiltshire farm.

Grower Nigel North lost 14ha of standing winter barley at Clanville Farm, Shrewton, Wiltshire, on 24 July.

Fortunately, Mr North had his own water bowser on a JCB Fastrack, so managed to put out the fire before it took hold.

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But as the crops caught alight, the blaze spread rapidly, and it took eight fire engines and the military fire service from nearby Boscombe Down airport almost two hours to get it under control.

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“It’s very fortunate that nobody was injured, and we didn’t lose any machinery, which is a bonus,” said Mr North. However, winter barley yields had been extremely good, so the value of the lost grain and straw could easily top £13,000 or more. “I’ve no idea what it’s worth – fortunately we’re insured and the they’re coming out today to value it,” he added.

Mr North was back combining winter barley again today, and taking extra precautions against further fires. “We’re in a 55ha field and the crop is very dry – the grain is coming off at 12% moisture,” he said. “We’re trying to cut against the wind and are making fire breaks with the cultivator to try to prevent it from happening again.” Contractors were also baling the straw as quickly as possible to clear the field.

“We’ve got three or four days of combining left in the winter barley, and yields have been very good,” said Mr North. So far the Glacier had averaged more than 9.9t/ha, and was producing a nice sample, he added. “It’s amazing really – I’ve never cut a crop like it before.”