25 July 1997

Harvest picture not too cheery as combines roll

BRIGHT spots to clear the early harvest gloom are few and far between as combines crack the back of the southern winter barley harvest and move into oilseed rape.

With most wheats still a week to 10 days from being fit, quality of that crop also remains on a knife-edge, says Jonathan Hoyland of Andover-based merchant Banks Southern.

An early sample of Soissons from the Thames Valley is very millable and notably disease-free, he notes. But ear disease is widespread and could create problems. "Crops look a bit dirty, but as long as we do not get much more rain it should stay just on the glumes."

Southern winter barley yields are down quite a bit, says grain director colleague Robert Streatfeild. "There is a lot of weathered and split grain and nitrogens are quite high." Output is down 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) and nitrogens up 0.1% on last year, he estimates. "We are already losing some malting contracts."

The picture emerging from early cuttings in the east and east Midlands and extensive combining in the south-west earlier this week (p48/9) confirm the trends seen in the south.

Although 75% of barleys are cut in the Chichester area, overall results are still too early to call, according to Gary Herman, Bartholomews grain trader. "Yields wont be as good as last year, but last year they were exceptional."

Specific weights are generally good. But malting nitrogens on the high side are due to changes of variety and late N uptake, he believes.

In Kent, Grain Harvesters Charles Roberts says that with no more than a third of the area cut yields have been mixed, with Fanfare ranging from 6.2-8.6t/ha (2.5-3.5t/acre). "Farmers have been scratching around to find fit crops." Wheat admixture, up to 4%, has wrecked some malting samples.

Nitrogens in some malting barleys have exceeded 2%, notes Paul Calver of Soufflet, Ashford.

&#8226 In Scotland Gary Mitchell of West Galnock, Stranraer, got off to a good start last weekend with Melanie winter barley coming in a week to 10 days earlier than usual at 6.9t/ha (2.8t/acre) and 1.67%N. "It is looking very good at the moment."

HARVEST UPDATE

&#8226 Good progress across south. Much slower elsewhere.

&#8226 Mostly poor barley yields & quality.

&#8226 Drought and frost legacy.

&#8226 Wheat quality concerns.

&#8226 Oilseed rape more promising.