Last year was bad enough for Scottish Barometer farmer Stuart Davidson – he never thought it could get worse. But this season has been just that.
Ever since April it seemed everything was against Mr Davidson, with the constant wet, dull weather, tricky spraying timings and lack of sun for grain-fill.
“I know us Scots can sound like a depressing bunch, but for at least the third year in a row harvest has proved to be more of a chore than normal, even this far north,” he said.
Winter barley cutting started on 10 August in a crop of Sequel, which is at least 10 days later than normal and in fact about five days later than he started drilling rape last year. “As of 20 August, we have cut just over 200ha and have another 250ha to go,” said Mr Davidson.
Yields so far have been in the range of 6.3-8t/ha. “It’s been disappointing, but very much expected, given that we hardly saw any sun during the grain-fill period. Specific weights have been poor, ranging from 57-62 once through the dryer.
“Moistures have been good, ranging from 16-20%, so at least the drying cost will be less than in previous years. On the subject of drying, our new dryer has finally started earning its keep. We are still on a steep learning curve with it, but so far so good,” he said.
Variety wise it is mostly Sequel and Escadre that have been cut to date. “Escadre gave a significantly better sample than Sequel, so we are thinking of putting more acres down to this variety next year.”
His 320ha of oilseed rape will be ready to harvest in about 10 days. “We have applied diquat to one block to bring forward the harvest date before shifting it [combine] to our other farm.
“It is always hard to predict rape yields, but we aren’t expecting any miracles, given that it saw the same amount of sun as the winter barley – zero.”
Drilling next year’s oilseed rape is hanging in the balance at the moment. “We really want to be getting it in during the next 10 days, but our heavier land is in no fit state to drill at present. We will just have to be patient and hope for a window. Plan B may have to come into play before the end of August. Surely we are in for a decent spell sometime,” said Mr Davidson.
Record rainfall in June has left its mark on Northern Ireland Barometer farmer Martin Hamilton’s crops, with his farm receiving close to 200mm (8in) for the month.
While the adverse weather made all farm operations difficult, it has also put disease pressure on growing crops. “We have started lifting 40ha of Newcastle and Nairobi carrots, some of which have been affected by carrot-yellows virus carried by aphids,” he said.
The farm grows 160ha of potatoes split between first/second earlies and maincrop. Yields have been affected by the wet weather and lack of sunshine.
“The first earlies are split between Accord and Casablanca. Accord likes it very dry, so has had a horrible season. Yields are running at about 20t/ha,” he said.
All the second earlies are Maris Piper and yields are at about 37t/ha. Looking ahead to the maincrop, he expected yields to be about 45t/ha. “So it’s not going to be a great season.”
Very wet weather and general high levels of disease and potato blight has been a real challenge this season. Other crops were proving just as difficult – suppressing disease in spring barley had been just as taxing, said Mr Hamilton.
Propino spring barley is the variety of choice and yields are expected to be near 6.2t/ha. Although Propino is a malting variety, it will be sold for feed to local livestock farmers.
Read more on our Barometer farmer page