Farmer Focus: Weather takes its toll on cereal yields

The harvest is in here at Valetta and if we were a vineyard we would be popping a cork on a bottle of the finest drop to celebrate the vintage, so for us, sitting down to a loaf of bread seems more fitting.

However a thin slice of white sandwich bread with a good dollop of toppings would be more reflective of the harvest than a thick slice of raisin toast!

In November and December 350mm of rain and 23 days without seeing the sun during grain fill has taken its toll.

See also: How a milling wheat grower hit 12.2t/ha at 13.1% protein

Cereal yields have been disappointing, with Starfire autumn wheat struggling for 10t/ha, autumn Graham at 11t/ha and spring Discovery a touch over 8t/ha, both 2.5t/ha back on normal.

Spring barley with a cultivar reported to be “short-strawed, stiff-stemmed and resistant to lodging” got to fence height and fell over, yielding only 6t/ha after an infuriating day with lifters peeling it up off the ground.

We came in with a very robust T4 fungicide, but it seems there is no cure for wet feet and three weeks of no sunshine.

Pea yields were just downright embarrassing, but I have been assured many fared worse than us.

Specialist crops

Surprisingly, our grass seed yields have been only a touch back on normal, at 1.9t-2.5t/ha depending on variety, and germination tests so far look very good.

Our clover got very bulky early and we were brave and gave it a late haircut and a hot spell of weather in January gave a good flowering and seed set.

These crops have gone 1t-1.35t/ha field dressed. That spell of hot weather also gave us perfect pollination conditions for hybrid oilseed rape and hybrid carrot seed multiplication crops, harvested bulk from these looks very good, but they haven’t been dressed yet.

At Valetta we are inland near the foothills of the Southern Alps, the guys down on the coastal strip (10ish-km wide) have had a very good harvest due having useful, but not damaging rainfalls and being out from under the cloud cover.

Cereal yields have let us down, but fortunately our specialist crops have filled some gaps in to give us an average harvest.

David Clark runs a 463ha fully irrigated mixed farm with his wife Jayne at Valetta, on New Zealand’s South Island. He grows 400ha of cereals, pulses, forage and vegetable seed crops, runs 1,000 Romney ewes and finishes 8,000 lambs annually.