7 August 1998

High hopes for better wheat

Most winter barley and rape

yields are well down on last

year, with poor quality adding

to the low-price gloom. Hopes

are high for a better wheat

harvest. farmers weeklys

arable team reports

EAST

COMBINES were busy finishing winter rape and barley last weekend – where storms allowed; some early drilled Soissons wheat was cut, but most wheat was awaiting better weather mid-week.

According to merchant Banks Agriculture, winter barley yields have been down by about 10% on last year, with variable grain quality, but nitrogens generally low.

"There is huge variability in crop performance, Fanfare doing well, but other varieties less good," says Banks Mike Adams. "Specific weights range from the low 50s in disease-affected crops to 70kg/hl in clean ones. Grain Ns are mostly 1.5-1.7, but screenings are generally quite high.

"Where winter rape stood yield is reasonable, where it went down it is disappointing. Overall yields are down 10-20%."

Norfolk merchant BDR of Bressingham, near Diss, has seen three samples of Soissons wheat from Essex cut before the heavy rain. "They were extremely nice, with specific weights of 80-82kg/hl higher than expected," says BDRs Steve Howlett. Proteins were low at 10.5-11.1%.

In Norfolk David Crossman, who manages Wyken Farms Company, at Castle Acre, is reasonably satisfied with barley and rape, despite yields being 10% below last year. Fanfare outperformed Regina for yield and quality. Mid-February drilled Lantra peas will probably be combined next.

In Suffolk Brian Mitcham is pleased with winter barley, which has turned in his best ever result. Fanfare yielded just over 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) with a specific weight of 67.5kg/hl at Shrubbery Farm, Hesset, Bury St Edmunds. Nitrogen was 1.53% and screenings 2.4%.

In Essex Peter Faires reports rape yields about 20% lower than last year at Warren Farm, Great Tey, Colchester. Flat winter linseed was a disaster, yielding just 1.23t/ha (10cwt/acre).

Eastern barometer grower, David Pettit, from Diss, Norfolk, is pleased Regina grown for malting has made the grade at 1.8% nitrogen, 65kg/hl, and 3.5% screenings and 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) yield. Wheats should be ready this weekend.

SOUTH

HARVEST results remain mixed with poor weather making cutting increasingly spasmodic.

Winter barley yields are down on last year, averaging 4.7t/ha (2t/acre), says Robert Streatfield, of Banks Southern at Andover, Hants.

Of the malters, Fanfare is doing well, giving 67-68kg/hl specific weight. Regina is more mixed and Halcyon rather poor, averaging 63kg/hl. Nitrogens are very low and screenings very variable, he adds.

On rape, Banks trader Jolyon Hobby has handled 10% more crop area this year, but 10% less tonnage. He puts average yield at about 3t/ha (24cwt/acre).

Wheat cutting is just starting, with early Soissons yielding 4.9-8.6t/ha (2-3.5t/acre), with good quality, says Banks Jonathan Hoyland. The variety is generally as good as last year, apart from protein 0.7-1% down.

Harvest conditions have become a lottery, Hants grower Alistair Nugent of South Harting, Peters-field, combining in flooded tramlines to take rape. The results justified the move, direct-combined, desiccated Synergy breaking their rape record, at 4.2t/ha (34cwt/acre).

Melanie winter malting barley cut in July also pleased, yielding 6.4t/ha (2.6t/acre), only about 5% less than the 1997 crop, with 1.4% nitrogen, 5.6% screenings and 71kg/hl specific weight.

At Wroughton, south of Swindon, John White finished harvesting Hanna winter barley, all standing, last week. It yielded 6.8t/ha (2.75t/acre), about 10% down on average and similar to last year. Given the bad season he is pleased.

The same goes for Apex rape, which lodged at the start of podding. It tested the combines side knives, but produced a nice sample weighing 3.3t/ha (26cwt/acre).

East Sussex grower Geoff White cut Soissons wheat in three days from July 24, with the crop sold for £80/t. Specific weight, protein and Hagberg were 80.1kg/hl, 10.6% and 250 to over 300, respectively and yield 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre).

Regular drenchings meant southern barometer farmer, Patrick Godwin, took over a week to harvest lodged Gerald winter oats at Billingshurst, West Sussex. Yield is estimated to be a respectable 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) with good quality.

MIDLANDS

AS wheat harvest begins in the Midlands, indications suggest lower than average yields, but encouraging quality results.

"Of the first five soisson samples we have seen, quality is 80 kg/hlw, 250 Hagberg and 10.4-10.7% protein, although yields are slightly down on last year", says Robert Kerr of Glencore Grain.

Views echoed by a farmer on the Beds/Cambs border. "We have just cut our first south-facing field of hereward. The sample looks OK and we are optimistic it will make full spec milling, but as a fourth wheat it is yielding about 0.5t/acre down on last year at 3t/acre".

Oilseed rape yields are also down on typical years.

"With most of the rape in this region likely to be finished by the weekend, we are looking at disappointing yields, typically down 3cwt/acre, which could fall still further once we have cut Capitol flattened in the snow."

But after a slow start, barley quality is beginning to improve.

"Now we are into harvest proper we are seeing low nitrogens, average bushels of 67kg/hlw, screenings of 2-3% and few germination problems, although, again, yields are down by about 0.5t/acre," says Mr Kerr.

In Lincolnshire, John Fowkes of R S Fowkes, at Coleby, is pleased with quality although disappointed with yield. "In a typical year we would expect 55cwt/acre Halcyon. This year we have only managed 46cwt. Apart from high screenings, we are pleased with quality."

SOUTH WEST

IT was stop-go at best in the south-west last week. Winter barleys continue to disappoint on both yield and quality.

Yields are down about 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) and low nitrogen malting samples will need some cleaning to meet specific weight standards.

Barometer grower Stewart Hayllor in Devon has finished Lizard oilseed rape, which did 3.5t/ha (28cwt/acre) at 15% moisture and is now cutting winter barley for contract customers.

In south-east Cornwall Jon Bond was three-quarters through his Halcyon winter barley earlier this week.

"It is flat and we have been really struggling. It needs sun." Yield is averaging 5.5 t/ha (2.2t/acre) with screenings at 20% off the combine, but initial nitrogen tests are under 1.5% so it will be worthwhile cleaning, he says. Cutting September drilled Halcyon in August is exceptionally late for the farm, he adds.

In Somerset, Cannington Grains Ted Bird reports oilseed rape yields down on last years, at 3.1-3.7t/ha (25-30cwt/acre). Tests to date show oil at 42%, with few red seed problems.

Wessex Grain reports a start on wheats and spring barleys but quality is poor so far. Soissons varies from rubbish to a 75kg/hl, 11% protein and 300 Hagberg sample which earned an early premium, albeit for feed due to 8% screenings.

NORTH

ONE sunny Sunday does not make a harvest, especially when it follows up to 63.5mm (2.5in) of rain the preceding week.

Rainfall has not been even, with barley and oilseed rape harvest further ahead in Cumbria than Northumberland, reports consultant Eric Wooley from Newcastle upon Tyne.

With half the barley cut in Cumbria, yields are quite good, especially of Muscat and Regina, while oilseed rape is averaging 3.78t/ha (30cwt/acre). But only light land barley is halfway through in Northumberland, with yield down and variable quality.

Between Scotch Corner and Holderness oilseed rape is averaging a reasonable 4.03t/ha (32cwt/acre), but some crops are in the mid 20s, reports consultant Peter Lambert, of Copmanthorp, York. Barley yield is the lowest ever, often associated with unusually high levels of take-all. Six rows are often performing particularly badly, he notes.

Snatching the best of the Sunday sunshine barometer farmer Keith Snowball, of High Farm, Bransby, York, set about contract combining swathed oilseed rape using three combines until 1.30am. That secured the crop from the 15mm (0.58 in) of rain that fell by lunch time on Monday. Some of his own barley taken at the same time came in at 21%, making him thankful for his newly installed continuous flow drier.

A catch-it-while-you-can harvest has resulted in Regina and Pastoral barley about 1.25t/ha (0.5t/acre) down on last year for Anthony Hornshaw, farm manager for Croft Farms, Croft, near Darlington. "Much of the barley will make intervention with cleaning. But poor fields of six row Muscat have given unacceptable screenings and I wont be growing it again.

On Church Farm, Shipton, by Beningborough, near York, 70% of the barley is harvested, yielding 3.7-4.95t/ha (1.5-2t/acre) compared with last years 6.2-7.4t/ha (2.5-3t/acre). A price of £38/t after discount for poor specific weight and drying has been reported in the area.

Merchants have been receiving barley of exceptionally poor quality; many six row samples are showing 45-50 kg/hl, and two rows 57-61 kg/hl. Generally, barley yields seem to be down by about 1.25t/ha (0.5t/acre) and oilseed rape by 0.6-1.25t/ha (0.25-0.5t/acre).

WEST

SHOWERY weather continued to hamper harvesting with little opportunity for the combine last week.

Peter Sands of Ivydene Farm, Brewood, near Wolverhampton, describes this years harvest as frustrating. "It is August and we are still only about halfway through our barley and oilseed rape, and the wheats are a good 10-14 days off. Yields seem to be determined by soil type rather than variety."

Muscat and Regina have done reasonably well on medium to heavy ground, though down about 0.6 t/ha (0.25 t/acre) on last years average of 7.4 t/ha (3 t/acre). All the oilseed rape was knocked to the ground by snow at the end of March and as expected is yielding less than last year at 3 t/ha (24 cwt/acre). Pronto seems to have recovered better than Herald and Lipton.

At Harnage Estates, south of Shrewsbury, Justin Scott had cut a third of his oilseed rape by Monday. "Rape yields average 30-32cwt/acre, but barley is 10% down on last years poor harvest. We only grow barley on the lightest of land and often drill after potatoes in mid-October. Fanfare has performed poorly at 1/6t/acre. Halcyon has done a little better at about 2t/acre."

Nick Matthews, a barley trader from Allied Grain, brands the harvest frustratingly slow. "All barley yields and quality are poor this year. Gleam and Regina have done particularly poorly and Halcyon has produced small grain."

SCOTLAND

HARVEST got underway in earnest last weekend, but stopped on Monday as rain and strong winds swept the country. A fifth of the winter barley crop is now cut in most areas, with mixed reports on yield and quality.

Barometer grower Eric Haggart from Perthshire spent Saturday repairing his combine, but went on to clear a quarter of his Fanfare on Sunday. Moisture was 17.5% and yield a pleasing 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) plus. "The sample looks quite nice and it would seem Fanfare is a good feed variety for this area, even in a bad year," says Mr Haggart.

Neighbours have cleared plenty of Melanie, but report thin grain below malting standard, he adds.

By contrast Alan Whiteford, who farms north of Inverness, expects all his Melanie to meet malting standards. He cleared the crop at the weekend, with 1.44% nitrogen and screening an acceptable 7%. Yield was estimated at 6.5t/ha (2.6t/acre).

In Aberdeenshire, David Jack is trying to be patient, Muscat needing a few days more sunshine earlier this week. Most of the crop is flat, despite growth regulator and a 37.5kg/ha of nitrogen (30 units/acre) cut in fertiliser. Neighbours with Melanie do not have the same problem, but Mr Jack expects a yield of 8.5t/ha (3.5t/acre) compared with Melanies more typical 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre).

No area of Scotland has had more rain than the Borders. "We have already had our annual quota of 23in," says Jimmy Mitchell of Kelso. He has left his winter barley to concentrate on combining oilseed rape. "There is less of it to dry and there was a real possibility of sprouting in the swath," he says.

Nearby, Barclay Forrest reports disappointing Pastoral winter barley samples, while Regina has stood well. Samples coming into his drying plant look well, although screening may be quite high.

Another Borders farmer, Malcolm Stewart, who has strong land at Brotherstone, says he still needs a week of dry weather before fields will carry a combine.

N IRELAND

NORTHERN Ireland barometer farmer, Michael Kane, has yet to cut any of his own crops at Ballyharny House, Limavady.

Bad weather means harvest is 10-14 days behind normal, oilseed rape only being desiccated last week.

Some winter barleys have been cut in the area but, as expected, BYDV is taking its toll. "We have combined some on my uncles farm two miles away and I do not expect it has done much more than 1.5t/acre. Normally he would expect 3t." &#42