9 August 2002

Standstill, as rain hits wheat harvest

By Charles Abel

WET weather across most of the country saw harvest truly stalled for much of last week, the weekend and the early part of this week. With more rain forecast there was little prospect of progress into ready wheat, observers agreed on Tuesday.

Torrential rain in East Anglia saw all combines stopped from Saturday morning, with up to 120mm (5in) of rain recorded in a few days, including 75mm (3in) in one hit in Essex, the first 55mm (2in) coming in just one hour.

Soils are now so wet that harvest will be slowed for weeks to come, warned ADAS national cereals expert John Garstang. "We could have been 10-15% through the wheat by now, but have probably only done 3-4%."

Waves of bad weather streaming in from a deep depression over the North Sea hit most of eastern England, storms pushing as far west as Oxon and Warks. By Tuesday 300,000t of yield and 10 Hagberg points had probably been lost, he said.

"Wheat prospects now all depend on the weather over the next few days. Fortunately crops are standing well, mainly thanks to the varieties, pgr use and thinner plant stands."

As winds picked up on Tuesday, hopes were high for a start on 25-26% moisture Malaccas that still had worthwhile Hagbergs. "Hopefully the worst of the desperately warm, wet muggy conditions have gone," said CamGrains Phil Darke.

In Lincs, hail hit remaining oilseed rape hard knocking an estimated 2.5t/ha (20cwt/acre) from Vincent Hedley Lewis crops near Grantham. He now fears the impact of 90mm of rain on nearly fit wheat. "We need some dry weather. There are an awful lot of black crops in the area."

In the south-west, thunderstorms were still holding combines off Soissons and Isengrain wheats on Tuesday, said West Country Grains Ted Bird.

"We are ready, willing and able to start on wheat, we are just waiting for the right weather." &#42