12 September 1997

Wheat harvest lingers on in north and west

MAINLY dry weather forecast earlier this week was expected to see the cereal harvest drawing to a close by today.

Although yields and deteriorating quality are widespread in the north and west, Scottish crops seem less badly affected.

Worst recorded wheat specific weight reported to farmers weekly to date is 55kg/hl in "so-called" Riband. Several observers blame the dull wet June as much as bad harvest conditions.

Struggles have not been confined to the north. Over a third of Cornwalls harvest was still to combine at the start of the week according to Mike Hambly of Cornwall Farmers. Serious shedding in oilseed rape and linseed, as well as cereals, was adding to the misery of a difficult wet harvest.

Last week cereals were cut at 27-30% moisture and oilseed rape as high as 25%. "Drying costs will be horrendous on those crops."

In Scotland, where September cutting is more the norm, climatic variation has been particularly evident. While Stirlings barometer grower Scott Adam is salvaging spring barley and rape at Hill of Arnmore, further east and south progress has been relatively good.

A week of catchy weather saw no further progress until last weekend, according to John Hunter of Tayside-based East of Scotland Farmers co-op. But before that most of what was fit had been gathered, he notes. "We are still unbelievably early."

Only about 15% of the spring barleys in his area were unharvested at the start of the week, though 80% of the wheats were uncut. "With a week of this breezy, fresher weather we should be getting near to tidying it up."

Glyn Whitehead of Aberdeen Grain co-op agrees it has been a stop/go harvest but reports 20,000t in store against 12,500t at the same time last year.

High nitrogens in spring barley are a common feature, according to several sources. Yields are generally 0.6-2.5t/ha (0.25-1t/acre) down across all cereals in a strung out campaign, says Roger Baird of East Lothian merchant W N Lindsay.

Worst barleys in 25 years

David Tait of Coldstream-based McCreath, Simpson & Prentice says the combination of high nitrogens and low specific weights in barleys is the worst he has seen in 25 years. But wheat Hagbergs are holding up well.

Derek Padget of Yorks firm Argrain expects most crops, bar some odd pockets, to be in by the coming weekend. "Whether the driers can cope is another matter." Cutting at 22-23% moisture has been commonplace, he notes.

Northern barometer grower Caley Sackur has already had to resort to twin drier passes to avoid damaging milling potential in wet Rialto and Avalon.

Most Lincs crops should be in store by this weekend, according to BDRs Gary Sharkey. "But Hagbergs in wheat are shot." In contrast to Scotland many crops have been fit for a month, he explains.n

HARVEST PROGRESS

&#8226 Completion nears.

&#8226 Struggles north and west.

&#8226 Scottish contrasts.

&#8226 High barley nitrogens.

&#8226 Wheat quality concern.