Farmer Focus: Winter barley misses malting spec

Cereal harvest is in full swing, although there is still a way to go, given the unusually high proportion of spring cropping this year.

It was a fairly steady start, with the reduced autumn-sown area meaning we didn’t have the usual early season pressure.

Our yields are like most others I hear about, with winter barley down about 30%, oilseed rape down but not by as much, and wheat variable depending on location, soil type and drilling date.

See also: Harvest 2020: Poor straw yields and Cornish OSR high

At the time of writing I’ve not cut any spring barley but that does look like it should have more potential, which is good, given the amount we have to cut.

Our winter malting barley had the dubious honour of not making malting for the first time, thanks to over-high nitrogen levels. Another effect of the weather!

Normally it’s not a problem to hit the target, usually with room to spare, and I’m generally left wondering whether I could have got away with putting on a bit more. It just shows that despite our best efforts we are not really in charge.

In an attempt to raise spirits during what will undoubtedly not be a vintage harvest we have tried to create some team spirit and promote our industry with a concerted effort to take some good action and scenic shots to improve our social media profile.

One thing I noted when in New Zealand earlier in the year was how many agricultural businesses used the various social media platforms to attract staff.

Businesses like mine are reliant on employing a number of seasonal staff, so if we can raise our profile while giving a flavour of what we do, then that has to be positive. Luckily, I have a tech-savvy team around me capable of capturing that iconic shot.

The vegetable processing side of the business is slowly recovering from the Covid-19 downturn. Cornwall does seem very full of holidaymakers enjoying a staycation which is, at least, helping some of our customers whose trade is more local.

We are in the process of carrying out yield estimates on potatoes and onions, both of which show reasonable prospects, so I hope the demand for the Cornish pasty stays up where it belongs.

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