9 August 2001
Harvest 2001: Washout continues

By Tom Allen-Stevens

COMBINES in some parts of the UK have not been out of the shed for over a week as the rain continues to hammer down across the country.

Fears are now growing that this years stop-start harvest will be a repeat of the 1999 harvest, when heavy rain devastated wheat quality.

“Another week of this could ruin the wheat harvest,” Philip Darke of Camgrain in southern East Anglia told FARMERS WEEKLY on Thursday (9 August).

The pressure is now on members of the co-operative store to get the crop in before Hagbergs drop, even if that means harvesting at 21% moisture.

“We can dry it all here. We would rather the farmers get through it,” said Mr Darke. Most wheats so far have scored well on quality.

Its a similar story in the west: “Farmers are chomping at the bit to get started again,” said Paul Crumps of Shropshire Grain.

And in the Midlands Emma Farley, manager of Holton Power Farms, reports efforts to cut the oilseed rape have been thwarted by incessant rain.

“After 15 minutes of combining today at 14% moisture it started pouring down.” Just 8ha (20 acres) of Madrigal oilseed rape have been cut.

But wheat quality remains the number one concern in the south, with even some early samples looking poor, according to John Smith of Weald Granary in Kent.

“Growing Malacca he would normally expect 13% Protein,” he said of one north Kent farmer supplying the store.

“The sample from one field ranges from 10.6-12.5%, which is mostly feed standard.

“The longer this persistent rain goes on, the longer we will see problems with Hagbergs, bushels and protein.”

Hagbergs on Malacca and Hereward are generally 50 below last year already.

Elsewhere in the south, quality has been good, with Hagbergs above 300 and protein reaching as high as 14%.

In the south-west, Owen Cligg of Wessex Grain is not worried yet, but believes things will have to improve soon if a quality crop is to be harvested.

“If the crop that is ripe is cut this weekend it should still have a high Hagberg. But if it is not cut in 10 days then the Hagberg will drop.”

That deadline may already have passed for Austin Lukins, who farms with his son Allan at Pimperne near Blandford Forum.

The rain has now stopped all harvesting of their Claire. “A week ago the wheat was not fit. Now it is beginning to shatter. We now need some sunshine.”

Thankfully, sun could be on the horizon. The heavy showers are clearing to the south-east, according to the Met Office.

Friday (10 August) should bring a fine day for most, with drier weather forecast for next week.