Farmer Focus: Early harvest forecast as winter barley ripens

I am at that time of the year where it seems quieter. However, when I sit down and list out the jobs which need doing before we supposedly get busy, it is a considerable number.

It’s surprising how long jobs such as cleaning and washing out buildings prior to harvest take. By the time everyone takes some holiday, harvest in one shape or form will be here.

The winter barley is changing rapidly and is looking like it will be an earlier than normal start, although perhaps not by much.

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We have already started one harvest with daffodil bulb lifting under way. Our recent weather pattern here, with a dry April followed by a damp May, has resulted in the daffodil tops dying back relatively early.

This will undoubtedly reduce the bulb yield on the later flowering varieties, although it is too early to say by how much.

Labour shortage

I have read much lately about a tightening labour supply in our industry.

It is certainly something we are noticing with good-quality staff becoming much harder to recruit, particularly for the casual work which is so essential for a business such as mine.

We have a group of excellent returnees back for the summer period for which I am very grateful.

Hopefully, we can continue to meet their expectations in order that they continue to want to keep coming to work for us.

I am not sure what the answer is, but I can’t see that I can engineer out the labour requirement in a lot of what we do.

It is, therefore, essential we have access to a willing international workforce as there doesn’t appear to be one locally.

The political uncertainty over what is going to happen in the medium and long term is not helping. Now Brexit talks are under way an early indication on seasonal labour for our industry would be extremely welcome.

On a slightly related note, I recently sat through a presentation on the areas which would need to be overcome to import and export grain once the UK is out of Europe.

To say they are considerable is probably an understatement.

It really brought home to me what a massive task the exit negotiations are going to be. Rather them than me sorting it all.


Jeremy Oatey manages 1,200ha of arable land near Plymouth in Cornwall and is 2013 Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year. Cropping includes wheat, barley, OSR, oats, beans, potatoes, onions, swedes and daffodils.