3 August 2001

Pace hots up as sun shines

The pace of harvest picked up this week with combines out as far

north as Scotland. Our comprehensive coverage continues with

reports from all the regions, starting with the south of England

SOUTH

HUGE variations in progress and yields are reported across the south of England. Some farms are into wheat, while others hadnt started winter barley earlier this week.

"Oilseed rape yields are all over the place – 17cwt to 2t/acre," says SCATS Rob Sanderson. Early wheat samples look very good but it is early days, he adds.

Most winter oilseed rape is cleared, but winter barley is only 75% home. So far, quality and yields have been a pleasant surprise with very low screenings and mid-range nitrogens.

Wilts-based Velcourt farm manager Chris Redfearns Pearl is typical. "I reckon it did 7.6-7.7t/ha. Its bold grain with high retentions and nitrogen is 1.7-1.8%." Yield is a touch below budget but not bad under the circumstances, he adds.

However, later sown crops especially off heavy ground could spoil the picture, says SCATS malting trader Mike Butt.

At Wephurst Park Farm, near Billingshurst, West Sussex, oilseed rape yields are below the farms normal 3.3-3.7t/ha (27-30cwt/acre) average, says manager Robin Matthews. Apex did just 2.9t/ha (24cwt/acre) off 23ha of weald clay.

"It had looked a better crop than it turned out. The seeds are very small." January drilled Soissons should be cut during the week, he adds.

Bill Harbours oilseed rape at Sheldwich, near Faversham, Kent, is also disappointing. Apex, Escort, Fortress and hybrid Cohort all came in at about 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre), down on the farms 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre) average.

But in Wilts, David Margessons oilseed rape off his own farm yielded 3.5t/ha (28cwt/acre) and 3t/ha (25cwt/acre) off a share farm. "We feel quite happy with that. Average for our farm is about 3t/ha."

Low moisture content has been causing problems for some. At Bushy Down Farm, Droxford, near Southampton, Stephen Horn switched to night combining on oilseed rape to pull moisture up from 5% to 7.5%. "Its a very strange feeling not combining during a hot sunny day," he says.

Heat is also causing some concerns on barley quality, says Robin Appells Jonathon Arnold. "It is so hot it is proving quite hard to get a good sample in the combine."

MIDLANDS

HOT, dry weather has seen combines crack on across the midlands.

"Were seeing yield variations in every crop, although quality has been good," says Glencore Grains Robert Kerr.

Northants-based Brixworth Farming Cos experience supports that. "Pearl has been very disappointing, yielding between 2t/acre and 3.25t/acre," says director Charles Matts. "3t/acre is what we would normally expect – 2t was very disappointing." Contact oilseed rape "broke few records" at 4t/ha (1.6t/acre), he adds.

In Lincs, grower Jan Smith also reports variable yields. "Weve cut 30 acres of Contact rape which has been a bit disappointing at 28cwt/acre. Of 105 acres left, 40 acres should be better but the rest wont be so good." Winter barley Pearl was more pleasing at 8t/ha (3.25t/acre), up 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) on last year, with 70kg/hl specific weight, less than 1% screenings and 1.6% nitrogen.

Charles Wheatley, of Heath Farm, Chipping Norton, Oxon, has finished his 48ha (120 acres) of barley. "Siberia, Heligan and Jewel all made about average at 54-55cwt on brash land. Id have liked more, but drought set in about eight weeks ago."

Therfield Farming Companys Contact oilseed rape near Royston, Herts, yielded a pleasing 3.5t/ha (1.4t/acre), while Fortress at 9% moisture made 4.0t/ha (1.6t/acre), says director Edward Darling. "We hope to be in the early wheat by the weekend."

But in south Bucks, J Rayner & Son have already made a start on wheat and the trend of variable results seems to be continuing. "We have recorded 9t/ha Soissons and over 9t/ha of Claire but that has been the exception rather than the rule," says estate director Colin Rayner. Some crops have been a "disaster", yielding only 6-6.5t/ha (2.4-2.6t/acre) compared to the 8-10t/ha norm on the sandy loam/gravel soils, he adds.

EAST

WALL-TO-WALL sun has accelerated harvest. Oilseed rape yields are disappointing, barleys average, but better than expected.

"Rape never looked spectacular, so it is no surprise yields are below average at about 22-24cwt/acre," says Richard Whitlock of Beds-based merchant Banks Cargill.

"Barleys are running between 60-65cwt, an average yield, with N levels of 1.6-1.8%. Samples look nice, but some contain a lot of weed seeds."

Herts grower Ed Hitchcock was not surprised by poor oilseed rape yields. "I have combined 40 acres of Apex. It was murdered by pigeons, I reckon it did only 18cwt/acre compared with a five-year average of 27cwt.

"Barleys are better. 35 acres of Pearl did a pleasing 3t at 1.85% N. It replaced Regina. That did 2.5t/acre last year."

In Cambs, Bartlow Estate manager John Goodchild is also "quite pleased" with winter barley. "Regina averaged 60cwt/acre, we normally get 52-53cwt. Maris Otter did 47cwt, which is about right and I was absolutely amazed by 30 acres of Leonie. On light land it did 71cwt."

Apex oilseed rape off similar ground was below par at 2.7t/ha (22cwt/acre), but on better land averaged 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre). Like a good many growers, Mr Goodchild is racing to cut it before it gets too dry.

"Moisture is down to 7% and we are chasing it off with the combine. We will be into spring barley this week and the wheats are not far off."

Suffolk merchant Ed Wadsworth, of George Burlingham & Sons, says 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) barley yields are common. "That is better than expected, but rapes are disappointing at 25-26cwt."

In Norfolk, Aylesham Grain reports similar relief at winter barley yields. "There are no records, but crops are a lot better than everyone feared a couple of months ago," says Andrew Dewing. "Screenings are low and grain bold with an average of 1.55% N."

While Norfolk has some way to go with winter barley, some Essex growers are into wheat. Paul Burkenham called the Harvest Hotline about Malacca continuous wheat off medium-heavy clay at Langdon, near Billericay.

"The yield is about 8t/ha, about a tonne down on normal. That is better than we expected, but disappointing when you have thrown everything at it."

Midlands barometer spotlight

With one-third of his harvest done before August, Brian Shaw has mixed feelings. Winter barley at Lilley on the Beds/Herts border could still be crop of the year, he predicts. "Its just a shame about the price.

However, with oilseed rape I am reasonably pleased with the price which is up, though still quite volatile, but its a shame about the yields.

Five years ago malting barley made £150/t – this years Pearl is making just £72/t, he says.

A bonus ahead of wheat cutting, expected next week, is that little fuel for drying has been needed. "We started a week ago last Sunday and we have used just 500gal on 500ha. Most barley came in under 14% moisture, and a lot of the rape came in at 6.5-7.5%. We were even prepared to stop if it had gone below 6%."

Pearl – about two-thirds of his winter barley – outperformed other newcomer, contract-grown Vanessa, by about 0.6t/ha (5cwt/acre). "We had four blocks of Pearl and it just squeaked 3t/acre, slightly better than the Regina its replaced. But the Vanessa never looked quite as good and we would have been better off with all Pearl."

Both gave much better samples than last year, with nitrogens of

1.6-1.65% and screenings of only about 1%, he says. "Its good quality and very uniform. I can only think it was down to the canopy management we got by default through water-logging."

Prices of £145-£150/t will do little to offset oilseed rape which remains disappointing, says Mr Shaw. Best variety was Escort, which went into a good seed-bed, never looked back and delivered 3.8t/ha (31cwt/acre). "But thats only what we were getting 10-15 years ago."

Varietal association Gemini (Arable, Jun 29) gave barely 3t/ha (25cwt/acre). "Its seeds were nearly twice as big as our other varieties but we had only half as many."

The balance of Escort, Madrigal and first-time Fortress gave only 3.3t/ha (27cwt/acre), ponding over-winter being partly to blame.

And contracted high erucic Maplus on set-aside, at 2.5t/ha (1t/acre) and £125/t will be dropped. "I wont grow it again until we get a more sensible price."

WEST

ALMOST 70% of winter barley was cleared along the M5/M6 corridor earlier this week, but harvest has only just started in Wales. Oilseed rape is vying for combine capacity and growers report its yields as disappointing.

Barometer grower Tim Morris, of Coneygar Farm, Quenington, Glos, is typical of those getting stuck in this week. "Ripening has been very uneven and our first bite of Escort looks poor. I dont expect well achieve 1.2t/acre."

Barley samples reaching merchants are of variable quality. "Some malting samples are coming in with specific weights at 65.3kg/hl and 1.75% nitrogen for Regina – thats not bad," says Geoff Russell of Glos-based Western Arable Services.

United Oilseeds James Hood warns growers not to let oilseed rape moisture fall below the 6% minimum contract specification. Shropshire grower Peter Taylor, of Fieldfare Farmers, is avoiding midday combining to do that.

"Weve switched to evening and early morning runs to bring moisture up from 5.5% to 9.5% overall. Our 55 acres of Escort yielded 1.7t/acre across the weighbridge and Pronto 1.5-1.8t depending on conditions at planting."

The good weather has allowed growers further west to wait for crops to dry naturally.

Powys grower Maurice Jones of Court Calmore, Montgomery, hopes his patience will pay off. "Winter barley crops are still dying off but at least the grains are full. Hopefully yields will match our 3t/acre average."

SOUTH-WEST

WINTER barley and oilseed rape are half cleared and growers will be into peas, spring barley, and even wheat this week.

In Somerset and Dorset about 50% of the winter barley is in, says Anna Stiles, of Wessex Grain. Pearl and Regina yields are above average with good quality.

"The retention is fabulous, typically 95% and virtually no screenings." Specific weight is between 67 and 68 kilos and nitrogen about 1.7%.

Paul Carters yields at Sherbourne Castle Estates, Dorset endorse that. Regina yielded 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), slightly above average and expectations for the farm, and with 1.65% nitrogen and 67kg/hla specific weight he hopes it will make low grade malting. Antonia and Jewel were below average at 6.7t/ha (2.6t/acre).

Cannington Grain Co-ops Ted Bird says thats typical of feed barley yields in Somerset too, 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) being average this year compared to 6.8t/ha (2.75t/acre) normally.

However, with the winter oilseed rape harvest 50% complete, yields are promising if variable, says Jonathon Gibbs of United Oilseeds.

"If there is a brighter pitch it is that yields are not too bad," he says. Wilts, Somerset and Devon have faired best, 3-3.7t/ha (24-30cwt/acre) being typical and some crops doing 4t/ha (1.7t/acre).

Keith Harris reckons his Contact oilseed rape at Silton, Somerset, has broken records on his stony brash soil. Across 40ha (99 acres) yield averaged 4t/ha (1.6t/acre) with some spots yielding 5t/ha (2t/acre), way above the farm average of 3t/ha (1.25t/acre).

"Its the best weve ever had. We changed many things, including putting in wider row spacing and drilled it directly."

IN THE BARN (TUES)

W.Bly 50%

W.Osr 50%

W.Wht 1%

* Barley yields average.

* Malting quality good.

* OSR yields above average.

Heatwave enables European harvest to race ahead

Harvest is racing on across Europe as the growers enjoy similarly good weather to that in the UK, writes Glencores Rotterdam-based trader Peter Williams.

In France, the hot, dry spell has seen winter barley all but wound up with yields a touch lower than last year. Crops in the north are yielding a bit more than expected so overall the result is slightly better than once feared. Spring barley germinations are above 90% and quality is good. Wheat harvest is well underway with 50-60% done. South of the Seine some areas yields are 10-15% down on last year but specific weights have improved since the first cuts. Falling numbers are variable, from 150 to 350 depending on variety and area. North of the Seine, yields are reported 5-10% lower than last year but little has been cut so far. Some proteins are on the low side – around 10.5% – mostly in areas where yields are higher. However, it is too soon to comment on overall quality though another fine week will see most of the wheat harvest home.

Germanys barley harvest is almost complete. Yields are up by at least 8% and the only area with quality problems, minor at that, is the east where specific weights are averaging about 60kg/hl. Wheat harvest has just begun in the south with early yields reported better than last year. Quality looks okay with good testweights and Hagbergs but protein is about 0.5% down on last year. The north will be into wheat next week.

Denmark has had three weeks of hot and sunny weather allowing growers to wrap up the winter barley harvest. Yields are very satisfactory at about 7t/ha on the better soils. The good weather will also see wheat start earlier than expected, as soon as this weekend in the south of Sjealland weather permitting. However, scattered rains are forecast for the coming days which would be mostly welcome to replenish bone-dry soils.

NORTH

DESPITE warm, dry weather across the region, late drilling and the wet winter has delayed harvest by at least 10 days on many farms.

"We are hanging fire at the moment," says grower and contractor Keith Snowball of Bransby, York. "It will be at least 10 days late for most, though we did a small field of Siberia winter barley which came off well at 3.5t/acre."

At Croft Farms in Co Durham, Anthony Hornshaw started on Regina last weekend and reckons hell be lucky to get 7.5t/ha (3t/acre). "We were drilling crops for nine months. Its been a very difficult season all round and establishment was poor."

Combines should get into the bulk of his winter barley and oilseed rape by this weekend.

Further north, farmers weekly barometer grower Les Anderson says harvest should start this weekend at Hamish Morrison Farms, near Kelso following Round-up (glyphosate) treatment to take the "green" out of 120ha (300 acres) of winter barley.

Richard Warburton, of Appleby, Cumbria, says crops look well but harvest is at least a week away. Less winter barley was sown than normal but foot-and-mouth means much ex-grassland is down to spring barley for the first time in living memory.

SCOTLAND/NI

SCOTLANDS harvest is underway with Charlie McCririck reporting a "very pleasing" 9.9t/ha (4t/acre) from 15ha (38 acres) of Muscat winter barley on lighter land cut over the weekend at Whitmuirhaugh, Kelso.

"It always looked a good crop and its a decent sample too, but oilseed rape will be a wee while yet," he says.

Trevor Wright, of Berwick-based Simpsons Malt, says only a few fields have been taken in the area, but expects to see more samples by the end of the week. "We are prepared for a very mixed crop on the winter barleys."

Some whole crop crimping has taken place in Ulster, but DARDs Ethel White does not expect to begin harvesting winter barley trials until this weekend. &#42