Earliest ever barley cut for farms as harvest picks up pace

Combines have started to roll in England and Wales this week, including some record-breaking early cuts, as this year’s barley harvest gathers pace.

Suffolk farmers Peter and Richard Maddever began cutting their barley on 29 June at Scott’s Farm, Cavendish – their earliest start ever.

The Electrum winter malting barley came off the first field at 15% moisture, and the farmers were continuing their harvest this week, with a yield of more than 8t/ha.

See also: Harvest 2022: Earliest harvest ever for UK farmers

“I’m very happy with that as that’s what has been budgeted for,” said Richard Maddever. “We’ve had some samples back and it is all well within spec.”

The farmer says such an early barley harvest could be down to changing weather patterns in his area.

“We get periods of very dry weather and then periods of very wet weather. I think we got a bit of rain just at the right time to keep the yield there.”

The Maddevers decided to significantly expand their malting barley area, which needs less nitrogen, when prices for fertiliser started to creep up last year.

North Yorkshire

Arable and beef farmer Doug Dear, based near Selby, North Yorkshire, started on his Valerie winter barley on Monday 4 July.

Coming off the field at 15% moisture and yielding 8.89t/ha, he said it was his earliest ever barley harvest.

“It is nice barley and loads of straw as well, which is exactly what we need,” he said.

Mr Dear, who finishes about 2,400 cattle a year, has about 100ha of winter feed barley to harvest, split between the varieties Valerie, Tardis and Orwell.

“The Tardis looks even better than the Valerie,” he said. “We’ve had such a good growing season, apart from the last six weeks when it’s not bothered to rain.”

Mr Dear said his OSR looked “unreal” and he was hoping to spray it off by the end of this week. 

Crimped barley

Meanwhile, Dylan Jones, a beef, sheep and arable farmer on Anglesey in Wales, has crimped 40ha of Valerie winter barley this week, which came off the field at 28% moisture and yielded 9.1t/ha.

“The yield was slightly disappointing, just below what I was expecting. But one clamp is pretty much full. It’s been clean, so I can’t fault that,” he said.

“There’s a microclimate here, and the crimping really works for us because we need bulk, given that we are finishing about 1,200-1,500 cattle a year on a totally self-sufficient farm.”

Mr Jones said his 85ha of spring barley – Planet, Tungsten and Laureate varieties – looked “really well” and should be ready to harvest after the Royal Welsh Show.

The early winter barley harvest on some farms comes as grain prices continue to soften, with November wheat futures down about £20/t on the week at £260/t on Wednesday 6 July. This compares with a peak of £350/t in mid-May.

Overall, agronomists suggest the UK cereal crop is a bit of a “mixed picture”, with spring crops potentially disappointing due to dry conditions in April.

Do you have any photos of your 2022 harvest? Add them to the Harvest photo gallery and let’s get it rolling.

Farmers urged to protect GPS kits from rural thieves

Farmers busy producing food for the nation this harvest must contend with the threat of rural thieves targeting expensive GPS kit on tractors and combines.

NFU Mutual has warned that GPS systems are one of the most frequently stolen items from farms because of their high value and portability.

The rural insurer said the national cost of claims for GPS theft almost doubled in 2020 to £2.9m.

Farmers have been put on alert following recent thefts in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire.

DC Chris Piggott, from the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Police Service, said: “It’s essential to remove GPS kit from tractors and combines when they’re not in use and store them securely.

“It’s also well worth using indelible ink to mark GPS cases and domes with your farm name and postcode to make it less attractive to thieves – and to help police return recovered kit to its rightful owner.

“Many systems now have PIN security – and activating it makes it much harder for thieves to sell systems on.”

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