31 July 1998

Variable quality and yields in a stop-start affair

From the far north of Scotland to the south coast of

England, harvest is proving a stop-start affair. Barley quality

is improving, but the season has suited some varieties more

than others. Rape continues to disappoint. farmers weeklys

arable reporters provide a regional round-up

SOUTH

WINTER barley is all but cleared; yields and quality have proved variable, the only exception appearing to be Fanfare.

The first cuts of Soissons winter wheat came in last week with yield and quality matching or surpassing last seasons levels.

Swathed winter oilseed rape has been combined and the direct-cut crop should be harvested by today. Later combined crops are yielding better than earlier cuts but overall they will be down on last year. The same applies to seed quality.

Southern barometer grower, Patrick Godwin reports an an average of 3.67t/ha (29.7cwt/acre) at 7.5 to 8% moisture for his 168ha (39 acres) of Apex at Billingshurst, West Sussex. "That is about the same yield as last year, so I am pleased," he says. "I do not know why it has done this well but one reason could be its rapid establishment, and another the growth regulator treatment that kept it standing." On Monday, Mr Godwin made a start on 32.4ha (80 acres) of Gerald winter oats. About one-third of the crop was laid despite treatment with 2.5 litres/ha of chlormequat at GS32-33. Rubbed out samples pre-harvest looked good and so he is fairly confident of a reasonable yield.

His 105ha (260 acres) of Consort, Brigadier and Reaper winter wheat began senescing quickly at the end of last week and he expects to start combining this weekend. None of the Consort has lodged and only about 10% of the Brigadier and Reaper is down.

David Taylor, who farms about 364ha (900 acres) of light chalkland between Brighton and Lewes, East Sussex, started harvesting his 34ha (185 acres) of Pipkin winter barley on July 8 and finished on July 19 and cleared 28ha (68 acres) of Apex winter oilseed rape in between.

He started combining 142ha (350 acres) of Chariot and Optic spring malting barley last Monday. Yields are expected to match last years 5.4t/ha (44 cwt/acre).

Pipkin weighed in at 6.2t/ha (50cwt/acre), which is about average for the farm. "Early samples tested at 1.4 and 1.46% nitrogen with screenings of 2% and a specific weight in the upper 60s. I do not expect the later bits to be different and so I am pleased with the crop," says Mr Taylor.

Oilseed rape produced a clean sample yielding 3.2t/ha (26cwt/acre).

Wheat

Wheat harvesting on Colin Rayners hot, early land near Heathrow began on July 19. The 3ha (7.4 acres) of Soissons produced 6t/ha (48.5cwt/acre) at about 16% moisture with a 76kg/hl specific weight, 10.5% protein and 388 Hagberg.

"We are very pleased with this variety, particularly as its yield is about 25% up on last years. I am only sorry that I did not plant all of our wheat land with it instead of about half," says Mr Rayner.

He is less enthusiastic about 202ha (500 acres) of oilseed rape. It began lodging during flowering and subsequently went flat. At about 2.4t/ha (20cwt/acre), the yield was a third down on last year.

"We will be into the rest of our wheat within the next few days," he adds.

Chris Hannan cut his 41ha (100 acres) of Hanna and Intro winter barley on light chalkland at Tarrant Hinton, Dorset, between July 17 and 21. Although brackled and leaning in places, its specific weight was 67kg/hl and it yielded reasonably well at an estimated 7.4t/ha (60cwt/acre) for Intro and a bit less for Hanna. That compares with his five-year average of 8.6t/ha (70cwt/acre).

Chariot malting barley, harvested this week, stood well and looked good. But he is concerned about the quality of 121ha (300 acres) of winter wheat. Despite applying an ear wash, large patches are infected with Fusarium.

East Sussex-based grain trader Steve Harrison of SCATS confirms the good quality of Soissons. He had one 100t load with an 80.4kg/hl specific weight, 10.4% protein and 350 plus Hagberg.

"That might have gone for milling but it is a bit early for millers to be looking for new crop samples," he said. "For movement this week I suggest selling it for feed at about £75/t ex-farm compared with £63 for new crop feed wheat."

MIDLANDS

AFTER a good weeks combining in the midlands, rape yields remain mediocre, barley yields variable, but quality appears to be improving.

Midlands barometer grower Steven McKendrick is midway through barley and rape on his farm near Burton on Trent. Although pleased in the main, he is disappointed with some later sown Apex.

"We started our rape on Tuesday last week and although the Apex and Bristol are averaging similar to last year at 26cwt and 27cwt/acre, respectively, two fields drilled in mid-September on a medium soil type only managed 22cwt/acre. "Winter barley is coming in at 14-17% moisture, and yielding from 2.25t/acre on very light land to 2.60t/acre on heavier soil types. Although marginally down on last years average of 2.75t/acre, with bushels of 64-65kg/hl we hope to meet Intervention standards."

Further south, yields are also similar or slightly lower than average.

Bill Turney of Weybridge Farm, Alconbury in Northants, combines about 800ha (2000acres) of rape. "We are cutting mainly Apex across a variety of soil types, from heavy Hanslope series to Ironstone land.

"The lighter land is yielding less, at 25-30cwt/acre, 10% below last year." At Gibraltar Farm in Herts, John Lewin reports similar yield reductions. "Although we have been able to cut desiccated rape at about 8% moisture, it has been slow going and Apex has come in at 26cwt/acre compared to last years average of 29cwt/acre."

John Errington of Heathcote Manor Farms in Bedfordshire, attributes his disappointing rape yield to lack of sunshine. "Crops looked promising all through the season, but small seed, caused by lack of sunshine, is probably the reason why we are about 2cwt/acre down on last year at 25-30cwt/acre."

Barley yields and quality remain more varied.

In Leicestershire, Paul Hilyer of Parkhouse Farm in Desford reports yields of about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre). "We are a little disappointed with Intro, which made less than 3t/acre, due to a high influx of blackgrass, which pulled it down. Later maturing Gaelic benefited from June sunshine and produced a bold sample yielding closer to 3t/acre."

Peter Allison of Manor Farm, Broadholme, Lincs, struggled to achieve 5t/ha (2t/acre) with a laid crop of Melanie but was pleased with a standing field which achieved similar yields to last years Rifle at just over 5t/ha (2t/acre).

In Oxfordshire, W &#42 Baxter & Son, at Field Farm, Worminghall, just managed to tip over 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) with Gleam on heavy clay loam, slightly below last years Epic average of 8t/ha (3.25t/acre).

Gordon Pearcy of Pound Farm in Hertfordshire saw better specific weights in Intro. "We grow 70 acres of Gleam and Intro for feed on Grade III, sandy clay with flints. Our yields were slightly lower than last year at 3-3.14t/acre, but we were pleased with the appearance of the Intro sample. The berries were bigger and the bushel was 69kg/hl, compared with just 63-64kg/hl for the Gleam."

Merchants across the Midlands reported three-quarters of the barley and rape harvest completed at the beginning of the week. Rape yields are average, although typically down .5t/ha (4cwt/acre) on last years bumper crop.

WEST

STOP-GO is the story so far with this years West Midlands harvest.

The end of last week saw a brief interlude in the changeable weather, allowing combining to gather pace, only to be brought to a halt on Sunday by heavy showers. Yields are far from exceptional.

To the south of the area, near Ross on Wye, barometer grower Stephen Macintosh has just cut his rape. "We have not calculated the actual yield yet, but it looks very average. With no barley this year, we are looking to start the peas shortly but wheats will not be ready until the first week in August".

Arthur Hill has cut all the contract farmed Regina at Burlton, north of Shrewsbury. "This is our first year with this farm, but I suspect that yields of 2-2.5t/acre are lower than they should be. Bushel weights are also on the low side at 58-64kg/hl." At his home farm at Much Wenlock, on slightly heavier ground, Regina is yielding better at just under 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre), with bushel weights of about 65kg/hl. But a lot of heads are being left on the floor, he notes.

Ray Mantle of Overton Grange, Ludlow, has cut about 80ha (200 acres) of barley. "The Regina has yielded between 2-2.5t/acre, down a lot on last year. We would normally expect an average of 3t/acre. Bushel weights are also on the lean side at 65-68kg/hl after going through the drier. A crop of Hanna has been the exception, that has done a good 3t/acre".

At CWS Roden, near Telford, farm manager, Paul Fox, finished his oilseed rape last week and has just started on the barley. "The rape yield is down 15% on last year, but first impressions of the Intro barley are not bad. Off quite heavy land it is yielding about 2.5t/acre, and quite a bold sample."

EAST

AFTER an uncertain start, eastern growers this week are reporting an improved harvest picture.

Although yields are down on last year they are now a lot better than many feared when combines first went in.

Norfolk grower David Crawford of Longwood House Farm at Topcroft had finished barley and was into rape last weekend. "Our 130 acres of Fanfare did 2.8t/acre on light land, and just over 3t on better ground," he says. "Nitrogens are below 1.75%. We have already sent 200t away and have had only one small screenings claim, contrary to the gossip which suggests screenings from Halcyon are diabolical in this part of Norfolk this year."

At Tunstall, near Norwich, Robert More has been pleasantly surprised by his barley yields. "Halcyon has been very variable. Where it did 6.25t/ha the screenings were 5-6%, but where we combined 7.5t/ha screenings were up to 14%. Nitrogens are 1.4-1.6%. Fanfare did about 7t/ha, but I have had no quality information back. The grain looks nice though."

In Suffolk Robert Claydon of Silverley Hall Farms, near Newmarket, is reasonably pleased with his Halcyon. "On light land it yielded 2.6t/acre, which is about our average, with 1.4-1.5% nitrogen. On heavy land it is doing just under 3t, about 0.5t below normal," he says. Rape has done 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre) and 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre) of light and heavy land, respectively.

Further east, Andrew Read is similarly satisfied with feed barley at Elms Farm, Depden near Bury St Edmunds. "Our 250 acres of Regina and Gleam did 3.05t/acre, compared with 2.85t/acre last year," he says. "It is a bold sample with a specific weight of 67-68kg/hl so I am pleased. Where we used a strob fungicide the barley stood out clearly from the rest and I combined the cleanest grain I have ever seen. I wish I had left a bigger untreated strip for comparison."

Essex grower Andrew Kerr has no winter barley but has been delighted with hybrid rape. "While 93 acres of Apex did 34cwt/acre, a lot better than our normal 28-30 cwt/acre yield, the 28 acres of Pronto hybrid rape was a 2t/acre crop," he says. Contact was the only variety to disappoint off the clay soil at Wyldingtree Farm, North Weald, doing just 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre).

Winter Linseed was a new venture for 1998. "It looked well all year and I hoped to get 1t/acre, so I am dissatisfied with 12cwt/acre," Mr Kerr adds.

At nearby Spains Hall, Willingale, near Ongar, Simon Bosworth has finished 37ha (91 acres) of winter barley and is waiting to direct combine his rape. "Our six-row Muscat and Princess yielded a disastrous 2.5t/acre; normally we expect 3.5t/acre," he says. "The grain is thin with a low specific weight. We have no idea why the crop has been so disappointing this year."

Deliveries to Camgrains store totalled 1100t of feed barley, 5000t of rape, and 3000t of malting barley by last weekend. "Feed barley yields are better than initially thought, and some malting varieties are doing just as well. Pipkin is yielding 3t on most farms which is better than Regina, and Fanfare yields are reasonable with good quality. The weather has suited Fanfare but not Regina," says Camgrains Philip Darke. Rape is 3-4cwt/acre down on last year, he adds.

Quality is also good, with over 85% of Pipkin and Halcyon, and nearly 80% of Fanfare below 1.65% nitrogen. Regina is mixed, with about half the deliveries under 1.85% nitrogen, notes Mr Darke. Screenings are also at reasonable levels.

SCOTLAND

SCOTTISH harvest prospects do not look good; even if the rain stopped and allowed the combines to roll, there are already fears about quality.

Some winter barley has been cut in the Borders, but bushel weights are low and screenings high, says Scottish NFU cereals convenor, Douglas Morrison.

"Little has been cut and crops generally are five to seven days behind an average year and 10 days behind an early year. I fear for the quality of wheats later on, there has not been enough sunshine," he said.

Barometer grower Eric Haggart has swathed his rape in Perthshire, but it is not quite ready, even if the weather did permit. "We should make a start early next week, but Fanfare is proving to be late maturing despite being sown early and coming into head before most crops in the area," he said.

Further north, Alan Whiteford was hoping to make a start to winter barley this week but feared the weather would delay things. "At current prices, farmers cant afford high drying costs, and the whole country desperately needs some decent harvest weather," he adds.

High winds at the beginning of July laid crops, especially oats, in many parts of Scotland. Any serious delay in harvesting would risk sprouting in some laid crops, say merchants.

NORTH

YIELDS are the main concern in both harvested winter barley and oilseed rape across northern England.

Barometer grower Keith Snow-ball, from Bransby, Yorks, reports that 32ha (80acres) of Fighter has not done well at 5t/ha (2t/acre) and 58kg/hl. But he is pleased with Regina at 6.8t/ha (2.75t/acre) and a specific weight of 64kg/hl.

"And the oilseed rape yields are better than we expected. Apex has done 3.8t/ha (1.5t/acre) at moistures varying from 9.7-11.7%," he says. Harvesting in the area is a fortnight earlier than last year and he believes there will be big varietal differences.

"The oilseed rape and Regina are pleasant surprises in a below average year. But Muscat has been disappointing, as has Fighter. Hyola 401 spring hybrid rape is looking very well at the moment and should be one of the brighter spots this harvest." But that is at least four weeks off, he adds.

Mark Smith, grain manager at Kenneth Wilson, Thorp Arch, reckons 35-40% of the winter barley crop has been harvested in Yorkshire, with 30-35% of the oilseed rape completed.

"There is no doubt that yields are lower than last year," he says. "And quality is a mixed bag in both malting and feed barleys. Weve seen bushel weights ranging from 55-67 kg/hl. Given the conditions we have had, it is not a huge surprise. Later cut barleys usually yield better, so things may improve yet."

Further north in Darlington, grower Michael Manners reports depressed yields in six-row Muscat winter barley. "The sample is not bad, but there is just not enough of it. Yields of 5.6t/ha (2.25t/acre) are well below average for this farm. The bushel weight of 63-65kg/hl is good though."

He still has 20ha (50 acres) of Gaelic to combine before the winter barley is finished. Specific weight so far is a respectable 68kg/hl, he says.

"The oilseed rape is still a week off. It has been sprayed with Roundup and should be done next week, weather permitting." &#42

Velcourt employees Adrian Standon (left) and Ian Crickmay get the combine set up on Velcourts Vine Farm, Cambs. Intro barley yielded 9t/ha (3.6t/acre), slightly above the farm average, thanks to good establishment and new chemistry, says manager, Tim Whitehead.

Regina barley, grown for malting, has done 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) on David Pettits clay-loam soil in Norfolk. "That is slightly down on last years 3.2t/acre, but if it makes malting I shall be happy. The problem is the base price is so poor." The season has also suited Apex OSR on his land, which did 4.7t/ha (38cwt/acre), but around the country many are reporting lower yields.

Bushel weights and barley yields are on the low side, says Shropshire farmer Arthur Hill. "Regina seems to be leaving lots of heads on the floor."

Apex has disappointed Richard Fitzpatrick, farm manager at Dollars Grove Farm, North Crawley, on the Beds/Bucks border. "It has only done 23cwt/acre, where we would expect 30cwt/acre."

Ted Rays trusty 8080 finished his 30ha (75 acres) of Fanfare near Brighton last week. "Yield is about normal, at nearly 6.7t/ha, but quality looks good. Nitrogen is 1.63% and screenings are 3.5%," he says. Not all varieties are fairing as well as Fanfare, though, report merchants.