27 July 2001

Silver linings for growers seen

in late harvest

By FWreporters

THIS years late start to harvest could bring some unexpected benefits, but ADAS fears for the knock-on effects for autumn sowing.

In East Anglia Camgrains Philip Darke says it is the latest start he has known since he joined the co-op in 1983. "By the weekend we only had 500t of barley in and no rape."

In Kent Weald Granarys intake has hardly begun, with barely 15% of its oilseed rape commitment delivered and only a handful of barley earlier this week.

"We are 10-14 days later than normal. Last year we took in our first load on July 3, this year it was on July 13. Normally we are flat out by now," says store manager John Smith.

But NIABs cereals specialist Richard Fenwick believes the delays are not necessarily to growers disadvantage.

"Harvest is definitely late." On average NIAB trials results start to flow from July 12, he says. Some untreated winter barley trials at Cambs were gathered in the middle of last week, but treated crops were not fit until this Tuesday.

"For winter barley a late harvest does not matter too much. Sometimes it can finish too early. Provided we do not get bad weather, the longer they can hang on the higher the potential yield."

The picture is somewhat different with winter wheat where a 10-day ripening delay can leave crops more exposed to bad weather, he admits.

Mike Carver, director of the Arable Research Centres acknowledges the workload and seed supply difficulties a late harvest can bring. "But it is not altogether a bad thing if it stops the headlong rush into early drilling, by which I mean before Sept 10 in the south.

"An awful lot of companies have seen early drilling as an opportunity for higher input sales."

Rain came too late to save winter barley in earliest cut ARC trials, and yields on the companys Cotswold brash site in Glos are 25% down on last year, he says.

But growers with later ripening barleys and especially wheat could be pleasantly surprised, he believes. "Some of our wheat trials drilled into frost in January and February look cracking, and in some cases better than October sowings."

ADASs John Garstang is more concerned. "We are into the latest harvest for five years by a significant margin. Quite a lot of winter barleys are still sappy and wheat harvest is being pushed back, which is delaying seed streams.

"The whole thing is making good weather in September and October even more pressing. If we get a good August we could still be cock-a-hoop, but the pressure on the seed trade will be staggering." &#42

COMBININGDELAYS

&#8226 Harvest about two weeks late.

&#8226 Potential benefit in winter barley.

&#8226 Ultra-early wheat drilling deterred.

&#8226 Workload and seed supply concerns.