13 August 1999

Quality worry in the wet

Rain stopped play – good news for Englands cricket team,

but not for harvest. Only those in the far north and Scotland

escaped the deluge, and quality concerns are growing for all

crops left in the field. Our comprehensive coverage continues

with growers and traders reports across the country

EAST ANGLIA

HEAVY rain has not dampened harvest optimism, but concern is growing that further wet could cause lodging, increase disease, and spoil Hagbergs.

"It is unlikely the weekend rain will have done much harm, it might actually have done some good allowing wheat to ripen naturally," says Richard Mason of Suffolk merchant George Burlingham & Sons. "But we do not want more rain – with muggy conditions there is potential for ear disease to develop." So far yields of early sown Charger, Malacca and Isengrain have been high, and Napier has done 10t/ha (4t/acre) on blowing sand, he notes.

In Herts David Rand is amazed by wheat yields. "First wheat Equinox is averaging 12t/ha with specific weight of 80-81kg/hl and one field of Malacca did 12.01t at 83kg. We normally do 10t/ha," he says. Savannah gave over 3t/ha (1.2t/acre) more than normal for second wheats at 11.1t/ha. Proteins are 11.2-12% on the old scale, and Hagbergs numbers are 300 and 220 for Malacca and Equinox. "My biggest concern is for Hagbergs on the rest of the Malacca if the rain returns as some on the headland has already gone down."

In Suffolk Andy Read is less concerned, as all his quality wheat has been combined and the rest is still standing. "Take-all knocked 1t/ha off third wheats, which averaged 7.5t, but second crop Malacca did 1t/ha more than normal at 12t, with a 300 Hagberg," he says. Hereward is also up at 9t/ha (3.6t/acre), but proteins are down by 1% at about 10% on the old scale. Regina winter barley did 8.2t/ha (3.3t/acre), 10% above budget.

In south Norfolk Gerald Gouchers first crop of rye for 12 years is running well. "Esprit is doing over 3t/acre with a nice sample of bold grain. When I last grew rye we combined 1.5t/acre. This years Halcyon winter barley was above average at 2t/acre with 1.6-1.8% nitrogens."

Faxing in on the Harvest Hotline, Andrew Keeler reports Maris Otter yielding 6t/ha (2.4t/acre), 1.45% nitrogen and 6% screenings. It has already been collected at a £45/t premium. "It is the first time we have grown Otter for six years and we have been delighted with it," he says.

SOUTH

RAIN has disrupted harvest progress for most.

But for a fortunate few, notably in north Kent, the campaign has finished. Further west some have yet to start wheat, with little prospect of getting going during the week.

"With rain every day last week and through the weekend, Wilts and Hants growers are only 5-10% into wheat, they are way behind those further east," says SCATS Grains Michael Williams. The few crops cut have reasonable yields, good bushel weights and variable protein, he says. "Hagbergs have been OK, but are becoming cause for concern."

Further east in West Sussex, Bartholomews of Chichesters Garry Harman reports wheats about 50% cleared, with exceptionally good yields – up to a "mind-blowing" 14.8t/ha (6t/acre).

In Hants barometer grower John Chalcraft has been hit hard by the weather. Last week only 16ha (39 acres) of Optic spring malting barley was cut. It yielded a pleasing 6.6t/ha (2.7t/acre) and even a rained-on sample looked good. Next to tackle is 20.2ha (50 acres) of Lexicon naked oats, then 101ha (250 acres) of wheat, but any progress this week seemed unlikely.

"All the wheat is standing and it would have been cut earlier than usual but for the rain," he says.

Wilts grower Roger Partridge is also waiting for drier weather to get into his 142ha (350 acres) of wheat at Yatesbury. That is looking remarkably good, he says. At the other extreme, around Faversham, Kent, Michael Attwoods 890ha (2200-acre) crop, mostly Riband first wheat, is all home and dry.

"We started on 23 July and finished last Saturday, about 10 days earlier than usual," he says. "Our new combine yield meter registered an average of 11t/ha for the Riband and 13.1t/ha for 61ha of Equinox, the jewel in our crown. Our average is probably the best ever, thanks partly to a full strob programme."

MIDLANDS

OVER 60mm (2.4in) of rain in some parts last weekend put harvest on hold this week.

In the east wheats taken before the deluge were throwing some bumper yields, but further west few have started. Now quality concerns are rising for all crops left to cut.

"In Bucks/Northants some yields are very encouraging, particularly off the lighter land," says Cargills Andrew Bury. But off poorer heavy land some second wheats have only done 6-7t/ha (2.3-2.8t/acre), he adds. Specific weights are high, but low protein is concerning. "Biscuit wheats are struggling to reach 11% protein on a dry matter basis, which is what the Continental buyers want," he says.

But midlands barometer grower Tony Wrights wheat in Lincs bucks that trend. Malacca has weighed in with 14% protein and an average yield of 11t/ha (4.5t/acre). "And the Riband we have done is yielding exactly the same."

In Oxon, Nick Augusts first cut Hereward at Burford yielded 8.2t/ha (3.3t/ha), 15% up on average, but protein is low at 12.6% (10.6% old scale). "You cant have everything," he says. Hagbergs are now a concern, with 80% of his wheat left to cut. At Chapel Brampton, Northants, Tim Harvey had just started wheat after above average crops of oilseed rape and barley when the rain came. And on the Notts/Derbys border Roger Wright is at a standstill with one trailer load of spring barley left to take and wheat ready to cut. "But it is too wet to even disc."

On the other side of the county, just into Lincs, Alison Wells reports Rialto yielding well at Newton on Trent. "First wheat Rialto has done 4t/acre, and 3.5t/acre even on thin sand. Our normal average is 3.2t/acre," she says. But a second wheat off river ground trailed in at just 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre). "It was stuffed with take-all."

At Retford, Notts, Tiln Farms manager, Richard Birthill, has done a third of his wheat, with Charger and Consort at 8-9t/ha (3.2-3.6t/acre). That is above average for the farm, but not quite as good as last year. Princess peas have done 3.8t/ha (1.5t/acre), just above average, but there is still a field to cut, he adds.

WEST

WHEN rain came nearly a fortnight ago growers were reporting high quality early wheat samples and exceptionally good winter oat yields.

"Oats on contract were yielding over 7.2t/ha – the spot market is dead," says trader Stephen Wood of N B Camber, Cressage, Shropshire. Now some wheat is down and crops are starting to darken, but it is still far too early to start panicking about deteriorating quality, he says. Early samples snatched last week have good specific weight, protein and Hagberg numbers.

farmers weekly barometer grower Andrew Cooke had 58mm (2.2in) of rain at North Farm, Felton Butler, Shropshire, last week. But wheat is still standing and will be ready as soon as it dries. Unlike some crops, colour is still good, he says.

In south Wales, Andrew and Julian Ratcliffe cut some Soissons before the weather broke, and await test results on the 7.2t/ha (3t/ac) crop. Farm records show it frequently rains at Penmark Place in the Vale of Glamorgan in the first weeks of August, so they are not too worried about any impact on milling quality in the short term.

"Gerald winter oats have done a wonderful 9.6t/ha and the straw value is the equivalent of an extra 2.4t/ha of grain," he adds. Oilseed rape was more disappointing and will be cut back this autumn.

Like others on the Welsh border in Hereford, David Price of Barland Farm, Evenjobb, could only wait for the rain to stop this week. He has 28ha (70 acres) of wheat ready to tackle. "Both Charger and Madrigal look very promising after using strobilurins for the first time.

SOUTH WEST

GROWERS experienced a trying week as the weather broke before they could get into unfit crops.

"The next fortnight will be critical for milling wheat Hagbergs," said an extremely frustrated Devon/Cornwall farmer/contractor John Moss. Wessex Grain on the Dorset/Somerset border agrees. Hagbergs have ranged from 205-350 so far, with most over 250. But as most crops are barely ready, the unsettled weather has not yet been too damaging, it adds.

Near Lulworth, Dorset, Paul Simpson was ready to start spring barley on Monday. Quite a lot of wheat had been cut nearby before rain intervened, he added.

In Somerset farmer/contractor Tony Higgins was half-way through his wheat, yield averaging 9.4t/ha (3.75t/acre). Abbot tested at 78kg/hl, 13.8% protein new method (11.7% old method), Hagberg 300 and 5% screenings.

Archie Montgomery, Somerset, had second wheats ready, but first wheats were not quite fit on Monday. "It is looking like a big harvest."

farmers weekly barometer grower Matthew Dale has been spraying wheat between the showers with Roundup (glyphosate) for weed control.

ADAS consultant Bill Butler says Devons winter barley results are not good. "I would say nearer 2t/acre than 2.5, worse in the west and north than in the east and south. And there is still quite a bit to do in west Devon."

Early wheats have yielded well over 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) and peas are yielding well too, he adds, with none below 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre).

NORTH

SCORCHING progress up to last weekend brought in almost all the winter barley and oilseed rape.

But now rain has hit operations as far up as Newcastle. Luckily most wheat is barely fit and little if any has lodged

Soutar, estate manager for Glamis-based Strathmore Farming Co.

On Monday FW barometer farmer James Grant Suttie was pleased most of his rape was in the shed at Balgone Farms, East Lothian. Another dry day enabled him to get into his winter barley at last, yield coming in at 7.4t/ha (3t/acre). Nitrogen results are awaited.

Winter barleys are about average, says Ian Simpson of Brechin-based Glencore Grain. "Bushel weights are a bit better than last year, although screenings and nitrogen content have been variable."

John Marshall of East Pitkerie Farm, Fife, agrees. "Yields have been the best we have had for a while." Regina did 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre) and Melanie 7.9t/ha (3.2t/acre). But nitrogen is variable, with some too low for maltsters, some too high. David Buchanan of Mains of Pitarrow, Laurencekirk, Angus, finished rape last weekend. "Although Herald was not as even as Synergy, both did reasonably well. And we cant complain about moisture."

But slow ripening lower branches caused some combine problems. Misty weather has also caused some sprouting, forcing Mr Marshall to harvest at 18% moisture. "We also had one poor field of Synergy which brought the average yield down to 3.8t/ha (30cwt/acre)."

Most spring barley wont be ready for another week or two. But some early crops in the Borders have already yielded 5t/ha (2t/acre) with 1.5% nitrogen.

N IRELAND

A WEEK of wet weather put the brakes on harvest, but some improvement in conditions earlier this week could mean a start on spring barley within seven days.

Grain traders report good bushel weights for winter barley already harvested, at up to 69kg/hl, and a brisk straw trade at £1 a bale or £10 a big bale.

Barometer grower Graham Furey from Killyleagh, Co Down, used the weather break to drill stubble turnips and rape catch crops after winter barley. But hot, humid conditions have led to some sprouting in spring barley.

"We have 36ha (90 acres) of spring barley, including Cooper, Lambeth and Delibes, and if the weather improves we will be cutting this week. I am not too worried about the minimal effect the sprouting is going to have on quality; if the moisture is under 20% we will keep going."

In Co Armagh farmers want three weeks of good weather. "Things are starting to stack up," says Henry Johnson at Tynan, Co Armagh. "Winter oats are looking good, spring barley is not far behind, spring oats will be ready in a fortnight and we have already desiccated the peas."

Crop consultant Robin Bolton reckons over 80% of winter barley is now cut at 12-14% moisture and 6.2-6.7t/ha (2.5-2.7t/acre). "Oats are ripening well and need another week and most wheat is 7-14 days away." &#42

Spotlight on East barometer

With harvest still a week ahead of normal and oilseed rape, peas and grass seed all home and dry, last weeks weather break caused little disruption at Hyde Hall, Great Fransham, Norfolk.

Robert Salmon is cautious about calling yields until his mainly seed crops are delivered. "We never really know what we have until we dress out. We had two good fields of commercial Apex oilseed rape and one mediocre, desiccated with Roundup, which cut very well direct with the Vario-header on our Lexion 460.

"We used Reglone on the Elan peas for seed and hit them a bit early with the combine because the forecast was not good." The reward was a clean green sample.

Lasso late perennial ryegrass for seed, swathed and picked up three days later, also produced 16,000 small hay bales, useful income at up to £1.80 a bale.

Until last Friday the farms 25t/ hour Vertec continuous flow drier had not been required. Some Apex came off as low as 5% moisture.

Three small fields of second crop Rialto, hard hit by take-all, was the first wheat cut by the farm team of John Everett, brothers Norman and Maurice George and Stephen Howard. Yield and quality have yet to be assessed.

Mr Salmon believes take-all built up in first wheats much more than usual last year, because of ideal conditions for the disease.

Oilseed rape stubble has been left untouched to allow shed seed to grow on the surface and avoid creating a volunteer problem for sugar beet. "The rain we had has been ideal.

"We normally wait until the seedlings get to 2-3in and then go in with the Terra-disc cultivator before drilling wheat. There is no need to plough because the seed-bed is already there."

The land is still too wet for effective sub-soiling, so a twin-leg mole plough is being hired to improve drainage and soil structure in field patches most in need.

£500 harvest help on offer

How would you like a £500 boost to your harvest income this year? Tell us how harvest is progressing on your farm and you could be well on the way to winning our Harvest Hotline Challenge. Entering is easy – just let us know how your crops are running, then summarise the harvest to date in less than 15 words. All we need is variety and yield and how that compares with last year. Further details, such as soil type, quality and input responses, are welcome, but not essential. At the end of the season the most apt comment will win a cheque for £500. So why not get in touch – by fax, phone or e-mail 24 hours a day or by post. Who knows, a report now could win £500!