Hopes fade in showers
From Cornwall to Carnoustie,
rain put the brakes on
harvest last week, raising
quality concerns in milling
wheat and malting barley
alike. But as our regional
reports went to press on
Tuesday, better weather saw
growers back in the combine
with hands on the throttle.
by Andrew Swallow
COMBINING continued through the weekend for a lucky few, but rain hampered progress for most. Wheat is now being taken at higher moisture for fear of seeing promising quality slip away.
"Wheat hasnt got into full flow yet but quality looks quite good so far," says Strutt & Parkers Andrew Graham, in Salisbury. That is echoed in Kent by Weald Granarys John Smith.
"There has been a change in attitude and farmers are marching on to preserve quality now. They are combining at 18-20% then drying."
Yields are reported as average to disappointing. Faxing the Harvest Hotline, James Fuggle says Hereward yields off weald clay are about average at Chessons Farm, near Wadhurst, East Sussex. "Hereward has yielded over 3t/acre. It looks lovely – big, bold and full of protein."
However, many in the area have yet to start wheat and are licking their wounds after dismal oilseed rape. "It ranged from disappointing to a disaster," says Jonathan Tipples.
Near Graveney in Kent, Michael Attwood has cut 20% of his 1200ha of wheat, Savannah doing 10t/ha (4t/acre) and Claire off poorer ground 7.4t/ha (3t/acre). "Weve had better off the same farm." However, little is cut locally and he still has some oilseed rape to clear on his brothers farm.
In West Sussex, John Goring has also made a start on wheat at Wiston Farms. "Claire on good downland soil, drilled in good conditions, looked great but did only 3.5t/acre. Theres no reason why it shouldnt have done 4t."
His oilseed rape bucked the trend, topping 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre) but Nitouche peas limped in at 3.2t/ha (26cwt/acre). Earlier drilled Optic spring barley was on par at 6.4t/ha (2.6t/acre) and 1.75% nitrogen but later sown crops are doing about 1t/ha (0.4t/acre) less with 70% cleared.
Barometer grower Tim Lock describes harvest as distinctly average so far. On Tuesday, he was combining Espace peas ahead of Option wheat for fear of thunderstorms. "They are not outstanding. Id guess about 30cwt/acre."
Sandland Jalna oats with a lot of secondary growth disappointed, but gave an acceptable 6.8t/ha (2.75t/acre) on better land. Winter barley, which needed little drying, tailed off with later sowings to average only 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre).
POOR weather is pushing harvest later and later, say growers and traders. About half the winter barley is cut but spring barley is at least a week away for most and wheat wont be fit until well into September.
Winter barley yields are below average and nitrogens high. "Things have been very sporadic because of the weather," says Charlie Birnie, development manager with United Cereals of Scotland. "We desperately need some sunshine."
Alex Kellet, of trader IM Cowe, echoes that. Few samples have been tested, reported yields are poor and nitrogen levels up on the year, averaging about 1.6%, he says.
At Invergordon, Ross-shire, David Houghton has cut 12ha (30 acres) of Regina. Yield at 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) is disappointing compared with the expected 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) and specific weight is a worry, averaging 63kg/hl.
"That low figure suggests that grain fill hasnt been good, which makes me slightly nervous about the spring barley."
Reports from around the country are that so far the spring barley crop is standing up to rain and wind, but quality worries are widespread with farmers in all areas blaming blind heads on lack of sunshine.
ANGER over misleading weather forecasts after a week without much combining was widespread on Tuesday. Steamy conditions were raising concerns that Hagbergs could be wrecked.
However, samples taken from standing crops last weekend showed no signs of sprouting or discolouration, reports Beds merchant Banks Cargill. But growers with milling wheat are taking no risks cutting as soon as conditions permit.
John Errington, also of Beds, combined 200t of Claire on Saturday, was rained off Sunday but got on again late Monday at 22% moisture. Yields off gravelly soil started at 8t/ha, but he is now on better land and will be disappointed if it does not yield close to 10t/ha.
"After a dreadful season, one we would all like to forget, it is almost the last straw to be messed up again at harvest," he says.
Essex grower John Latham is satisfied with first wheat Malacca. "The first 100 acres averaged 75cwt/acre which is about right, with 300 Hagberg, 13% protein and specific weight slightly down on last years 76kg/hl."
In Suffolk, Carl Drivers Malacca specific weight is also low. "As continuous wheat it did well giving 8.6t/ha, 300 Hagberg, 13% protein, but borderline specific weight. I was disappointed with Chaucer as second wheat. Take-all pulled the yield down to 8.2t/ha."
Malacca intake at Camgrain also shows variable specific weights, says Philip Darke. "Hagbergs are 300, proteins averaging 13.6%, with some shrivelled grain."
Eastern barometer spotlight
Surprisingly good initial winter wheat yields are offsetting earlier oilseeds disappointment for Stuart Knight in Norfolk. But blackgrass has taken its toll.
Two days wheat cutting on Rhoon Farms fertile soils at Terrington St Clement, before 12mm (0.5in) of rain stopped progress on Sunday, saw Consort after vining peas at more than 12t/ha (4.9t/acre) dried.
"Even second crop Consort did about 9t/ha. If you had offered me that as an average last autumn I would have taken it."
However, Claire after oilseed rape delivered only 10.5t/ha (4.2t/acre), due mainly to blackgrass, he believes. "You could see the monitor yield coming down as we went through the patches."
Specific weights of both varieties were adequate for the farms poultry feed outlet. "First wheats were 74kg/hl, but the second crop was slightly down at 71."
The results help make up for 36ha (90 acres) direct-drilled oilseed rape, all Madrigal, in two fields. Neither came near the 4.9t/ha (2t/acre) the farm has previously achieved.
"One field did 25cwt/acre, which I suppose is acceptable for the year." But the other, hit by sclerotinia in a tight rotation, waterlogging and slugs gave only 1.6t/ha (13cwt/acre). "Well probably give that part of the farm a rest from rape for a while."
Despite having 25% of his 344ha (850 acres) of wheat in sprouting-prone Claire, Mr Knight is relatively relaxed with only 40ha (100 acres) cut. "If anything we have been chasing it a bit. It was only just fit. Given a good run we could do the rest, apart from the peas, in a week."
The late April-sown Megane are ripening fast and look particularly promising, he says. Vining peas were due to start on Wednesday.
AFTER a week without combining, disheartened growers were assessing the impact of ear loss in winter barley, pod shatter in oilseed rape and ear disease in ripe wheat when harvest resumed early this week.
Western Arable Services Jeff Russell says pre-germination in winter barley could affect malting quality on crops still to cut and falling Hagbergs could soon be seen in milling wheat.
However, some growers are still upbeat. John Mercer, of Bowley Court Farm, Hope-under-Dinmore, Hereford, reckons his winter wheat will beat farm records.
"Were into 1000 acres this week starting with Consort. It was sown in mid-September and looks fabulous. I confidently expect well over 3t/acre."
At Hartlebury, Worcs, Acorn Arable Services have seen some good samples. "Consort has come in at 12.2% protein, 76kg/hl, 15% moisture and Hagberg of 230. It will make biscuit quality. Samples are surprisingly good considering the poor winter weve been through," says Tim Wells.
Barometer grower Tim Morris has been battling to cut Charger to meet contracts for collection this week at Coneygar Farm, Quenington, Glos. "Its coming in at 22% moisture and drying is a slow, expensive business. We had 26t ready to go Monday but the contract was for 50t – the first load is always a sweat."
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PROGRESS ranges from well into wheat, while others are struggling to reach halfway with winter barley, dogged by immature late-sown crops and poor weather.
Miles Silcock took 15ha (40 acres) of Claire winter wheat, 15% of his crop, at Ormskirk, Lancs, before torrential weekend rain. "It has yielded about 3.25t/acre at 19.5% moisture. On this black sand thats OK. Straw yield is tremendous and that really makes a difference."
Good crops of winter barley off light land are reported from the reduced area crop in the north-west but mixed weather in Yorks and Humberside, especially on the heavy land in the Wolds, is hampering harvest.
In Northumberland, Coastal Grains Terence Pardoe says growers are "fed-up" with the weather.
"Theres a huge amount of crop waiting to be cut. Quality looks good but its a very frustrating end to a difficult cereal year."
At Kelso, barometer grower Les Andersons Intro winter barley finished at 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) and an exceptional 74kg/hl. Six-rows Siberia and Manitou managed 0.6t/ha (0.25t/acre) more but specific weights were only 60-62kg/hl.
"Weve had a wet weekend and need some settled weather." Two treatments of glyphosate on oilseed rape should see it fit by the weekend but spring barley is still about two weeks away.
However, many are still battling with winter barley. At Stokesley, Cleveland, Andrew Brunton has cleared oilseed rape but only managed 4ha out of 100ha (250 acres) of winter barley.
"It was a late-sown crop that was thin and water-logged during the winter. The rest is ready but the weather is overcast and damp."
OATS, spring barley and wheat have all been snatched in a catchy week, but overall progress to Tuesday was limited. Wessex Grains Owen Cligg reckons only 8% of wheat has been cut and fears lower Hagbergs will be seen soon. "Yield and quality have been variable, but its early days."
Cannington Grains Ted Bird says wheat has only just started to be delivered and already some quality problems have been seen. "Weve had to reject two trailer loads on protein and bushel weights." Moisture has been 17% and 19%, reflecting poor conditions this week.
Faxing in on the Harvest Hotline, Tony Higgins, of Langport in Somerset, says: "Wheat yields are diabolical." He has done 120ha (300 acres) and has another 400ha (1000 acres) to go.
Claire is yielding 4.9-6.8t/ha (2-2.75t/acre), about 2.5t/ha (1t/acre) below the farm average. Drought on the brash soils in late May and June are to blame, he believes.
At Sixpenny Handley, near Blandford Forum, Dorset, David Chick started February-drilled Optic spring barley a week ago. "Weve been nipping in between showers to take what we can."
With a little over half his 61ha (150 acres) cleared yield is pleasing at 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), above the farm average of 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre).
WITH persistent rain slowing combines frustrated growers remain concerned but positive about wheat quality.
Glencores Robert Kerr says only odd parcels were cut this week because 20mm-35mm of rain fell throughout the region this week.
Paul Cook, of White Post Farm, Newark, Notts, snatched bits and pieces before coming to a grinding halt. "We havent cut anything for four days, but hope to get going again by mid-week.
Oxon-based Fraser Crawford has cut nothing in a week. "Some mid-September drilled Malacca looks wet and soggy, but is still standing. We put on a fair range of fungicides and liquid nitrogen, so its fingers crossed for quality."
It has been stop-start for barometer grower Brian Shaw, but yield and quality are "pleasing" so far. "We have managed to cut 70ha of second wheat Malacca, but this has been spread over four days using two 30ft machines."
"Guesstimated" yield at 9t/ha (3.6t/acre) is 0.5t/ha (0.2t/acre) above the farm average and 76kg/hl, 1% screenings, 13.1-13.3% protein and 418-440 Hagberg will make class I milling.
In Lincs, Keith Dove, of Taylor Farms, Stamford, snatched 44ha of Soissons over two days between persistent and heavy bouts of rain. "Weve had 8mm-48mm of rain every day." Quality and yield look a bit disappointing, he says.
Ian Branstone, of Bourton on the Water, Glos, is "frustrated but not yet worried" by the weather. "Wheat is fairly fit but were quite high above sea level here so are a bit later. Weve still got 80 acres of rape to go and are just waiting for the weather."
First cut rape achieved 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre) and malting quality Pearl barley a little below average at 6.0t/ha (2.4t/acre).
Back in Lincs, Charles Brant, of Normanby Lodge, Caistor, is beginning to get concerned about bedraggled Malacca and leaning Claire. However, he is more relaxed about his organic crops. "They are still some way off."
UNSETTLED weather is delaying progress and warm, mild conditions are creating some disease problems.
In the north-west, at Limavady, Michael and Boyd Kane still have eight of 50ha of winter barley to harvest having been able to combine on only two days last week.
"Weve grown mainly Jewel and Flute and it has yielded well – averaging about 3.5t/acre; the crop was clean and around 18% moisture," says Boyd.
Co Down farmer Graham Furey averaged 6.7t/ha (2.5t/acre) from six-row winter barley, mainly Angela. Jewel and Pearl should be cleared during the week.
"Were 10 days off starting winter wheat and spring barley but there are some very patchy spots in the wheat," he says.
With Pastoral barley already sold, barometer grower Mark McFerran says yield was 7.2t/ha (2.9t/acre), about average for the farm. Napier wheat could go next week but mid-January sown wheats are still about three weeks away. *
Good weather returned 10 days ago in France and fears of spoiled wheat have disappeared as results show that Hagbergs have held. Only 5% of samples are below 220. In the important export area of the Seine-Maritime specific weight averages 76kg/hl but nearer Paris and south they are 1-1.5kg/hl higher. Further north, around Amiens quality is similar and yields are 3-5% better than last years low-yielding, rain drenched, low specific weight wheat. All bar the clear ups in the extreme north will be in by the end of the week. Spring barley has also enjoyed the excellent conditions. Crops were not fully fit when the rain came and now quality is better than expected with proteins 9.5-11%.
The German winter barley harvest is all but complete and in southern regions wheat is 50-60% in the barn. Proteins are about 0.5% lower than last season but hopes are that northern areas will do better. However, Hagbergs are under threat following recent heavy rains. The next few days will be crucial.
Austria is not a large grain producer, but worth a mention as an important supplier into Italy of wheat and, due to drought last year, an importer of malting barley. This year wheat yields are 10-15% higher and proteins 13-15%. A crop of 1.5m tonnes compared to 1.25m tonnes last year is expected. Barley production is also expected to be 20% up on last year.
Rain across Denmark and Sweden has prevented any significant harvesting for a week. Both wheat and spring barley are ready and Denmark in particular is desperate for forecast good weather to arrive.