Driest ever harvest at Blakemere

Many farmers may be struggling with wet weather this harvest – but at Lower Blakemere Farm, Blakemere, Herefordshire, Philip Gorringe is finding it too dry.

“Our rainfall is running at about half what it should be,” he said. “The farm is as dry as I’ve ever known it.

“We didn’t have the rain in June and have had nothing significant since – the ground is like a road.”

Mr Gorringe was cutting grass seed today (17 August), having finished winter barley. “Our second year ryegrass has been very disappointing; where the crop got extra fertiliser on the headland yields are good, but elsewhere it’s died off.”

Winter barley yields were better than feared, with Cassia as a first cereal averaging 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) and Saffron as a second or third crop at 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre).

“The quality of the samples was fantastic, with bushelweights nearing 70kg/hl. But we’re still running the drier to deal with uneven ripening and green grains.”

Wheat looked very thin and short, he added. “But my neighbour has cut some and has been very surprised, mostly by dint of the bushelweight, which came in at 82-83kg/hl.”

With so little rain, grass simply wasn’t growing, and straw yields were meagre. “It’s not terribly helpful, as we’ve sold a sold of the straw.

“We’re not yet at the point where we need to buy any back, but supplies around here are very tight.”

The next problem would be preparing the ground for winter sowing, said Mr Gorringe.

“The law of averages means we’re due a very wet period. But at the moment I suspect autumn cultivations are going to be hard going, because we won’t be able to get into the ground.”

Crop: Winter barley
Variety: Cassia
Yield: 7.4t/ha (3t/acre)

Crop: Winter barley
Variety: Saffron
Yield: 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre)

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