Farmer Focus: Time for serious thought on winter barley

Well, that’s the cereals in the shed for another year. We finished wheat harvest by 18 August, and we even spent some time helping a neighbour finish their cereals.

It’s now time for the harvest report, and certainly time to ask the questions that matter.

Was there anything we could have done better? Was the weather totally to blame? And if so, can we do things differently to make sure we make the most of our opportunities?

See also: Harvest 2021: Unsettled weather hampers progress

About the author

Andrew Blenkiron
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Andrew Blenkiron manages the 4,400ha Euston Estate, south of Thetford. Principal farm enterprises are combinable and root crops, including sugar beet. In addition the estate supports let land, sheep, outdoor pigs, poultry, suckler cows, horses and stewardship.
Read more articles by Andrew Blenkiron

The winter barley was not too far away from a disaster in terms of yield, but thankfully it met the market specifications and benefited from a stronger price.

However, we are asking whether we should continue growing it in such a valuable part of our rotation.

It takes the premium cereal slot and should reward us accordingly.

That being said, establishment last autumn was poor and it did suffer an April drought and more than 20 nights of frost as it was trying to get growing this spring. 

Next, winter wheat. Much better and almost average in terms of yield, and that’s with quite a few bare patches in the fields as a result of it being too wet last autumn when it went in.

Quality has been exceptionally good, with great proteins and only a few loads being ever so slightly below the required 13%. Hagbergs hung on well, with nothing below 350 being sampled so far.

This could all be very different when it arrives at the mill in the middle of winter.

Then, of course, there is the fantastic price, over £200/t, which is certainly my career best and will help balance the shortfall in barley yield.

A challenge we experienced with the wheat was getting it moved to the central co-operative store that we are members of.

I thought one of the advantages of being part of such an organisation was that when your sheds are almost full you can shift it to store and the combine can keep going without emergency on-farm storage.

A 10-day wait for lorries just isn’t good enough, I’m afraid. Another winter job to sort out. 

The rest of the crops, including fodder roots, have enjoyed the summer and we are looking forward to harvesting them in due course.

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