Up and running – and not that bad
Harvest is finally under way
across much of southern
England. Poor yields from
winter barleys are common
and quality is struggling. But
results are better than feared,
with lodged rapes surprising
many. farmers weeklys
arable reporters provide a
FINE weather last weekend saw growers start harvest in earnest, but yields and quality are mixed.
Rape is a little disappointing after last years bumper yields, but some light land barley growers are reaping the benefits of a wet season. Early indications are that nitrogens are low.
In Essex, Guy Smith is pushing ahead with the remaining rape for fear of yield losses if the weather breaks, despite Fanfare winter barley being fit. Most of his rape yielded a farm average of 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre), but crops on the marshes are much worse. Sclerotinia is blamed, probably due to a tight one-in-four rotation, he says. "Last year we got 2t/acre, this year one field was down to 1t/acre. I have never seen so many sclerotia in the tank."
Norfolk barometer grower, David Pettit, is pleased with his rape so far, but fears later pigeon damaged crops will not be so good. The first 16ha (40 acres) have done 4.7t/ha (38cwt/acre), a little up on the long-term average for the farm. A start was made on Regina barley on Monday , which was running at about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), slightly down on recent years.
At Slys Farm, North Creake in the north of the county, farm foreman, Roger Smith, had cut nearly half of the farms barley earlier this week. "Fanfare has done 2.5t/acre, that is about average for us. But last year we had 2.8t/acre." Quality on both Fanfare and the first Regina on the medium-light loam looks good, but nitrogen content is not known yet, he adds. Near Kings Lynn, Broadoak Farmings combines were moving into Halcyon barley, having finished rape on Monday. Initial nitrogens are promising at 1.3-1.5% but yields are only average, says assistant manager, Tom Gilman.
In Cambridgeshire on sandy-loam over chalk, Wilbraham Farms manager, Chris Ashcroft, was halfway through his malting barley earlier this week. "Yields are streets ahead of last year. Pipkin is doing 7.3t/ha, and Halcyon 6.9t/ha. Last year we averaged 5.9t/ha." Samples off the sandy loam over chalk soils are coming off the combine at 5-10% screenings, and white endosperm suggest nitrogens will be low, he says.
Near Royston, Regina has done 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) on Parker Farms chalky soils. At 67kg/hl specific weight, the analysis is promising, says Mervin Parker. But lodged Fighter was not looking good as the combines moved in earlier this week.
In Herts, Peter Wedds Halcyon has done 6.1t/ha (2.5t/acre), slightly below the farm average, with specific weight at 67kg/ha. Nitrogen is still to be tested, but Mr Wedd is hopeful of malting quality. Straw from the crop is being baled and carted by neighbouring turkey farmer Michael Burlton in a straw-for-muck deal.
Merchants across the region report mixed quality, but it is early days. Halcyon samples at 1.5% nitrogen and Fanfare at 1.6-1.7% are reported with many specialist growers yet to start.
UP to last weekend only about 15% of the winter barley and the odd field of oilseed rape had been harvested in southern England.
But with fair weather forecast for the east of the region little barley was expected to be left by the weekend, with a fair amount of oilseed rape cleared, too. Further west, however, where less settled conditions were forecast, harvest remains a stop-start affair.
One south-east grain merchant reports rape yields ranging from 3t/ha (24cwt/acre) to 3.9t/ha (32cwt/acre), a bit worse than last year. Barley yields and quality are nothing special, although the first Regina yielded 6.2-7.5t/ha (2.5-3t/acre), with a bushel weight of 64, 1.56% nitrogen, and 2% screenings.
Avon grower, George Gent, confirms that initial barley quality is disappointing with yields at about 7.2t/ha (3t/acre). "The crop was meant for malting, but as its quality is not wonderful and there is not much of a malting market, it will go for feed. About half of it had gone down, despite growth regulator treatment, and that spoiled its quality."
Mr Gent has greater hopes for slightly brackled Pipkin which was cut last Sunday. It yielded a fairly moderate 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) but with few discoloured or cracked grains should make a malting sample.
This week he expects to get well into his oilseed rape, mostly Apex and Lipton. It is standing reasonably well and yield looks all right.
Sternberg Farms, based at Tenterden, Kent, started harvesting oilseed rape (all Apex) last Wednesday (15th) but had cleared only about 9ha (22 acres) of the 290ha (717acres) by the weekend. It is all leaning but not excessively. Two turns round the headlands were swathed and the rest desiccated. The swathed area combined last week had a moisture content of 9-13% and the desiccated a more consistent 13%.
By Monday lunchtime 27ha (67 acres) had been cleared. Average yield was only 3.21t/ha (26cwt/acre), well below the expectation of farms manager, Tom Forsyth.
Richard Oram, who runs a 506ha (1250-acre) arable-dairy farm at Allington, near Devizes, Wilts, expected to start cutting his Pronto, Apex and Alaska oilseed rape on Friday. Although the crop is leaning rather badly, it should not present any harvesting problems. It is being direct-combined but not desiccated, to save money.
"The 100 acres of Pronto has looked superb throughout the season and I will be looking for 1.75t/acre," says Mr Oram.
On mixed farms further west the prospects are less rosy. At Curry Mallett, Somerset, for example, Justin Adams has been waiting for a dry slot to cut his 6.9ha (17 acres) of Fighter winter barley for home-feeding. Although it is still standing, he reckons it will yield on the low side, about 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) against the usual 6.8t/ha (2.75t/acre). Berry size is a bit on the small side, typical of other crops in the area, he says.
EARLY indications are of variable quality, but many farmers are achieving better yields than the disastrous results anticipated.
"We are beginning to see the effect a lack of sunshine after flowering has had on grain fill," says Robert Kerr of Glencore Grain.
"While the first crops are generally the worst, it is certainly a mixed bag at this stage. Average yields last year approached 3t/acre, but are ranging from 1.98t/acre Pastoral and just under 2t/acre Muscat to 2.7t/acre Intro this year.
"Average specific weights are several points lower at 62kg/hl. But some have tested as low as 55kg/hl."
Scott Findlay of Little Biggens Farm in Herts farms 800ha (2000 acres). "Although we are down on last years Gleam yields from 3.5t/acre to between 2.5t and 3t/acre, we are not far away from a typical average of 2.6t/acre. "Specific weight wont reach last years 70kg/hl, but we hope to meet the intervention minimum of 65kg/hl. At this stage it is not as bad as I thought.
A similar story is seen in the rape, with some lighter soils faring better than heavier ones.
"We are only just into the rape, but heavy soils are seeing a 10% reduction on last years 1.4-1.5t/acre, while some varieties on lighter soils are achieving considerably more," says Graham Young of Banks Agriculture. "One farmer on light land reports nearly 2t/acre of Synergy."
Andy Davies of Davies & Davies, Beds, is reasonably pleased with his rape harvest so far. "Contact grown on a reclaimed sand pit is yielding only slightly less than last year at 30cwt/acre. Capitol and Amber are also looking reasonably good."
Further north, Fred Myers of Leverton Farms, Lincs, has seen a fall of just 10% in his Apex grown on heavy soils, from last years 3.6t/ha (1.45t/acre) to 3.2t/ha (1.3t/acre).
THE barley harvest has only just started; OSR harvest is late and some crops have only just been swathed, many are still to be desiccated and few have been combined.
Early indications are that barley yields are down on last year with low bushel weights to match. Oilseed rape yields are average.
"Our early barley yields are 15% down on last year", says Frank Dakin of Brewers Oak, Shifnal, Shropshire. The Gleam, grown for malting, did 5.6-7.4t/ha (2.2-3t/acre), but with disappointing specific weights of 58-62 kg/hl. Melanie grown on light land gave better specific weights of 66 kg/hl, but yields still at only 5-5.6t/ha (2-2.3t/acre).
"The rape that got flattened by the snow at Easter has yielded surprisingly well at 2.8-3 t/ha (23-24 cwt/acre). The standing rape only managed 3.4 t/ha (28 cwt/acre) – down on last year.
Archie de Haan, an estate manager based near Ludlow, Shropshire says "Yields are well down on last year." Surprisingly, the Regina grown as a feed crop has yielded less at 5t/ha than the Fanfare at 6.8t/ha grown for malting. The bulk of the barley will be ready at the end of next week."
At Raby Estates, near Telford, oilseed rape is nearly finished. Apex has disappointed at just under 3t/ha (24cwt/acre), but farm manager, Andrew Lewis, has been surprised by Lipton, which has done 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre).
Overall yields will be about average, unless last-to-cut hybrids really perform.
Nearby at Much Wenlock, David Craigs rape is a week off, but 36ha (90 acres) of Fanfare had been cut earlier this week. Dried yields of 6.4t/ha are about average for the farm, but a lot down on last year, says Mr Craig.
WINTER barley yields in the south west are 1.2-1.9t/ha (0.5-0.75t/acre) down on last years and specific weights are generally are low.
Almost all the barley has had to be dried. Winter oilseed rape reports suggest reasonable yields, though periodic torrential rains may change this.
In East Dorset the Hosford family reports 4.7t/ha (1.9t/acre) of Regina barley where 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) is the norm. Take-all is blamed. Apex oilseed rape cut at the weekend yielded about 3.1 t/ha (1.25t/acre), about average, though down 1.25t/ha (10cwt/acre) on last year.
Take-all hit Archie Montgomerys winter barleys at North Cadbury, Somerset. That, late flag leaf disease and lack of sunshine account for disappointing yields of about 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) overall, he says
Also in Somerset, Richard Payne had barley fit to cut but in view of poor prices was reluctant to spend money drying it, so started direct combining, without desiccant, on Contact oilseed rape instead.
Slightly more upbeat is SW barometer grower, Stewart Hayllor, in south Devon. He finished winter barley last week. Muscat which went flat early averaged 5.6t/ha (2.25t/acre), but the last-cut two fields of Hannah produced almost 7.5t/ha (3t/acre). Judging by trailer weights specific weights were good. Moisture content ranged from 14 to 22%.
Farmer/contractor John Moss in SE Cornwall reports "dreadful crops", with widespread take-all. He expects yields to be 1.5t/ha (0.6t/acre) down overall.
Another farmer/contractor, Howard Emmett on the Roseland peninsula had three days combining last week. Gleam came off at over 5t/ha (2t/acre) at 18% moisture. Apex rape yielded about 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre). More set-aside means barley will be dropped next year.
Tony Higgins in Somerset has reached a similar conclusion. He plans to slash his barley area and grow more linseed after terrible yields. His barleys averaged 5t/ha (2t/acre), with specific weight 58-63 kg/hl. *
Apex coming off at 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre) on Guy Smiths Essex farm. No fungicide, herbicide or insecticide went on to the crop, keeping costs down to £75/ha (£30/acre). "It got the perfect start to life. We planted it into dust then it rained and grew like cress. Any weeds were smothered."
In-field refuelling on the Velcourt managed Braishfield Manor Estate, Hants. Pipkin barley was coming in at just over 3t/ha.
Below average yields, screenings up to 10% even after dressing, and low premiums this harvest are forcing Suffolk grower Gerald Kidner to consider dropping Halcyon. Disease and lack of sunlight are blamed.
Parker Farms new Claas Lexion 480 eats into Regina with a 9m header. Yields on the chalk farm near Royston are about average at 7.5t/ha (3t./acre) so far, says Mervin Parker.