17 July 1998

Yield hopes

undampened

Despite adverse conditions

hopes for a reasonable

harvest have not yet been

totally dashed on our

barometer farms.

Andrew Blake checks the

latest state of play

RAIN and gales last weekend have failed to dampen yield optimism which is the main counter to widespread concerns about low grain prices.

In Devon combining began over a week ago – in Scotland, winter rape swathing is nearly a fortnight away. But despite bad weather there are few reports of flattened crops.

Output from early cuts of Stewart Hayllors winter barley at Gullaford Farm, Landscove, South Devon were only moderate (see p59). He hopes for better.

"Everything else is still standing pretty well and the wheats are hanging on longer this year so I am a bit more positive. I am also pleased to have made a start. We are three to four days earlier than last year."

In the south, wheats are senescing more slowly than expected, probably because of strobilurin fungicides, says Patrick Godwin, manager at Wephurst Park Farm near Billingshurst, West Sussex. "There is a ray of hope still in them. The longer they stay green the better the chance of good grain fill," he reasons.

Take-all in two-fifths of his wheat is worrying David Pettit at West Hall Farm, Diss, Norfolk. "The first wheats look similar to last year, but second crops three to four weeks off combining are a lot poorer."

In the midlands, Steven McKendrick has few second wheats at Blakenhall Park, Burton upon Trent, Staffs. With most crops still standing the outcome is in the balance. "It could go either way, but if we stay on course as we are now we should hit budget." Consort has more ear fusarium than Riband despite identical fungicide programmes, he notes.

Steven Mackintosh, who does not expect to cut wheat at The Homme, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire until early August, echoes that difference. "The Riband has kept very clean." Potential is probably better than last year given some sunshine, he comments. "Yieldwise I am quietly optimistic."

In the north, Keith Snowball reckons first wheats at High Farm, Bransby, York are on a par with last years crops. "But they are crying out for some sunshine and you cant go into a second wheat field without finding take-all."

For Eric Haggart at Bailielands Farm, Auchterarder in Perthshire there is still time to apply a wheat ear wash, albeit quite late. "One bright spot is that ears are very clean so I will probably use a reduced dose. I dont think we have had the disease pressure there has been down south." He expects average to good yields.

In Northern Ireland some wheat is already lodged at Ballharny House, Limavady, Co Londonderry and will not be fit to combine until September, says Michael Kane. "Its not nice to see it down at this stage but I am still optimistic provided we dont get more heavy rain."

"This is not going to malt… but maybe we are better off with the extra yield," says Richard Eyre, of Church Farm, West Bilney in Norfolk. At 6.8t/ha (2.75t/acre) the yield of this Regina is well up on the farm average, he says.