24 July 2002

Wet stops northern start

By Wendy Short

North-east correspondent

WET weather across the north had not dented the enthusiasm of growers earlier this week.

Crops generally look good and it is too early for malting barley to be suffering germination problems.

"If the rain carries on for another fortnight then I would be concerned about malting barley germination," says Richard Pratt of Allied Grain Fishers.

Earlier this week he had seen 20 or 30 samples from lighter land in Yorkshire. Nitrogen levels were variable, ranging from 1.5-2.4%, with screenings slightly higher than last year at around 15%.

"On the Wolds, it is much too early to talk about yields yet. A large percentage of crops are still not ready and need some sunshine."

Jonathan Pearse, of Grainco, says the few barleys seen so far gave pleasing results. "Yields have been 3.5t/ha plus. The six-row barley has been producing bushel weights of 66kg/hl, which is excellent news."

He urges caution about gloomy harvest predictions, stressing that the rain will have done little harm unless plants have actually been knocked over.

"Premature reports that bad weather is going to affect grain quality will send out the wrong message to foreign importers. There is no need to panic yet. Too much complaining will encourage international buyers to look elsewhere." A more pressing problem is the large area of swathed oilseed rape still in the field, he suggests.

Yorks grower Fran Wardell, of Woodhouse Farm, Westow, is looking forward to cutting Pearl winter barley. "We are ready to go as soon as the weather improves. I dont think there has been any damage so far. Like many other farmers I am hanging on, hoping the standing crop will get down to 15% moisture to save on drying costs."

His main concern is take-all. "It is creeping into my wheat in patches. I did not dress the seed, but a neighbour used Jockey and is having the same difficulty." &#42

Too familiar a sight, and all too soon. Harvest had barely started in the north before the combine covers had to come out last weekend.