23 August 2002

Weather makes it a mixed bag for Scots barley

By Simon Wragg

EARLY spring barley samples from Scotland appeared a mixed bag like their winter counterparts as growers grappled with continued unsettled weather earlier this week.

Increased screenings is the principle complaint though nitrogens seem low, say merchants.

"Its a bit disappointing with a lot of physiological spotting evident," says Peter Wastling, of Berwick-based McCreath, Simpson & Prentice. "Crops appear to have died off early and bushel weights have been hit. Cracked grains are also common."

Early results from Colin McGregors unit near Coldstream, Mains, Berwickshire, show acceptable nitrogen levels at 1.44-1.48%, but yields are down on last year at 6.5t/ha (2.65t/acre).

Further north, Glencores Adrian Fisher, who is based in Strathclyde, says it will be another week before any sizeable spring cereal tonnage is sampled and a more complete picture available.

Allied Grains Nick Baxter estimates 80% of the winter barley has been cut with yields of 5.5-6t/ha (2.2-2.4t/acre) doing little to lift growers moods. "Six-row varieties have been worst hit."

Pict appears the main exception, notching up bushel weights of 60kg/hl plus against an average of 54-55kg/hl, says Glencore.

"Of the two-rows, Regina has held up well, but along with Pearl many samples have failed to make malting quality in this patch. Theres a big heap of feed barley again this year," says Mr Fisher.

Stirlingshire grower Scott Adams has been disappointed with his Angela and Pastoral crops near Kippen. He describes yields as "diabolical" at 5.9t/ha (2.4t/ha) off medium loam soil – well short of expectations.

Hamish Forbes is less disappointed with seed crops of Regina and Siberia at Lochdu Farm, near Nairn, Morayshire, but yields are slightly back on previous years. Given the less than ideal growing season 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) is acceptable, he reckons.

Oilseed rape reports are also mixed, with inclement harvest weather preventing a repeat of the widespread bumper yields seen in southern England. At Coldstream Mains, heavy showers sent swathed crop yields tumbling from 4.4t/ha (1.8t/acre) to 4.1t/ha (1.65t/acre) following pod shatter.

But oils at 42-45% are good, say traders. Glencore reports yields up by almost 10% on some Tayside farms, but 5% is the norm.

For Mike Cumming in Forfar, wheat will come before spring barley. "Scorch and spotting on the wheat flag leaf appears to have had a big impact despite a full programme of strobilurins."

Back in the Borders, Allieds Mr Baxter has seen a few promising wheat samples. "Probably the best for a few years with Hagbergs of 300 plus and proteins up at 13%. But results are tempered by lower bushel weights." &#42

&#8226 80% winter barley and OSR done.

&#8226 Six-row barley poor.

&#8226 Low N in early springs.

&#8226 Screenings a worry.

&#8226 Rain robbed OSR potential.

Its enough to drive you to drink! Andrew McLarens Golden Promise spring barley in Tayside made the grade for malting and will end up in a bottle of Macallan, but yield was very disappointing. "We have had no sunshine." Like many, he is now worried about screenings with Optic.