Harvest 2004: Bring me sunshine

BARLEY IS coming off the field in dribs and drabs, but most growers need more sunshine before harvest can get fully underway.

Yield is generally “nothing spectacular”, quality is looking encouraging for early samples, but prices are disappointing.

Wessex Grain barley trader Robert Leachman is clear about what is holding up progress in the South West.

“The key ingredient is sun – that‘s what we‘re looking for,” he told FARMERS WEEKLY Harvest Highlights on Wednesday (July 14).

In Wiltshire harvest is about a week behind schedule, according to Wilts Grain store manager Nick Brown.

“If the sun had been shining, we‘d be taking in winter barley by now, without a shadow of doubt,” he said.

That said, early barley specific weights are good, with a six-row Pict sample coming out at 65kg/hl.

“Anything over 63kg/hl is respectable for a six-row,” he commented.

Down the road at Warminster, Joss Stratton has made an “encouraging” start with Carat yielding 7.6 t/ha (3.1 t/acre) and Pict 8.5 t/ha (3.4 t/acre), and reckons there‘s even better news to come.

“I‘m really excited about the wheat crop – it looks exceptional.”

But Oxon‘s William Emmett is more disappointed at his Muscat barley, which suffered from earlier dry weather, and is unhappy at the “minimal” returns he will receive.

“Year by year we grow less and less barley because the prices are too low.”

James Dean, farming near Salisbury, Wilts, is just happy to have got started, however.

“We managed to get two combines on the field yesterday and we‘ve got three harvesting today,” he said.

Wednesday‘s (July 14) dismal drizzle should be clearing away, assure FWi Weather Services, bringing a brighter prospect for Thursday.