North: Growers grapple with weather-affected harvest

Weather is a UK obsession, undoubtedly so this season for the farming fraternity in the north. After a fine, dry April when spring-sown cereals and potatoes went into superb seedbeds we reached autumn with very little sunshine throughout the middle of the year.

This has had a major impact on most crops. Winter barleys have in general been average although the newer hybrid six-rows such as Volume have performed well. Unfortunately the breeder has underestimated the demand and supplies of seed are extremely limited.


Winter oilseed rape has been the jewel in the crown with countless examples of whole-farm averages around the 5t/ha mark, some in excess of that. Growers have to snatch at spring barley or winter wheat fields with only the occasional dry day. Drying charges are going to be colossal.

Gathering straw is also proving to be a bit of a nightmare. In the central belt the earlier spring barleys (eg Optic) are probably all cut. The switch to Concerto has shown up this variety’s later maturing characteristics with many fields barely yet ripe enough to contemplate spraying with glyphosate never mind cutting. Further north the harvest has been delayed even more.


Oilseed rape crops already sown have responded to the damp conditions and are growing well. The moist soils have sparked a flush of volunteer cereals which will shortly be taken out with a graminicide.

If a pre-emergence spray was achieved it will have been metazachlor/clomazome based. If missed then an early post-emergence application of metazachlor/quinmerac should suffice. The old faithfuls, propyzamide or carbetamide, are still there as a fallback.


The lack of sunshine has affected potato crops, which are not bulking up. In many cases the harvest date will dictate burning down, rather than the crop reaching the optimum size grade. The threat of early frosts and sodden fields at lifting time fairly concentrates the mind.

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