West: Better than expected harvest

The harvest, while being far from completed, has now progressed quite well on most units. Despite the very dry spell in March and April yields have held up well on all but the most drought-prone soils.

Many crops looked horrible until well into May when nitrogen that had been applied in April finally kicked in. For the second year in succession the harvest result on individual farms has had a lot to do with the moisture retentiveness of the soil, with many fields that are usually considered too wet giving the best yields.

Winter oilseed rape has yielded close to 5t/ha on a lot of farms with low biomass varieties such as ES Astrid giving yet another good showing with good ease of harvest as well. With straw prices high the rape haulm has also had a value this year which only serves to increase the gross margin on this already high-flying crop.

Winter barleys have generally performed very well this year. The key to success appears to have been relatively early applied nitrogen, which kick-started the crops before the dry spell. KWS Cassia has performed very well, outperforming some six-rows and hybrids. As a first cereal some crops yielded about 11t/ha but in the more usual second cereal slot 8-9t/ha has been more the norm, and on more drought-prone soils 6-7.5t/ha. Specific weights have been almost univerally high. 

Winter wheat has been outstanding in places with yields well over 10t/ha. Most varieties have performed well, but the star performer in my trading area has again been Lear, with extremely high grain yields of good specific weight with an abundance of straw. This variety with its very good disease resistances appears to be very well suited to the southwest. Other varieties that have performed well include Sahara, Oakley and JB Diego.

Spring barley has unsurprisingly been the most variable crop of the year. Crops planted early into good seedbeds, with a good level of nutrition have performed well above expectations, while crops planted late into dry and cobbly seedbeds have understandably been disappointing. Quench has performed extremely well this year but varieties such as Garner, Westminster and Propino have also had a good year.

The maize crop in the southwest has so far had a difficult year. Most crops were planted into dry seedbeds so were slow to establish. This and the cooler than average summer means the crop is behind.

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