Harvest 2004: Mixed fortune

MORE COMBINES are beginning to roll across the south as most of the UK gets its first day of settled weather for a week.

Reports of the early barley crops vary on yield, and plummeting prices are beginning to bite, but most growers are happy with the quality.

“This is the best barley crop I‘ve ever had,” a jubilant Chris Smith near Newbury in Berks told FARMERS WEEKLY Harvest Highlights on Tuesday (July 13).

Siberia winter barley is yielding 9.3t/ha (3.70 t/acre) at 64-66 kg/hl specific weight, while Carat has achieved 8.8 t/ha (3.56 t/acre) at 71-74kg/hl.

“We were lucky to catch the early markets when no other farmer could harvest, allowing us to get favourable prices,” he adds.

No such luck for Colin Rayner, nearby in Windsor who has a “nice-looking sample” from his Pearl but says “prices are awful”.

“Even though we are achieving 7.4t/ha yield (3 t/acre), we are still making less money than we did last year when we were getting 4.94t/ha (2t/acre) because the prices are just so low.”

While many growers are waiting for drier conditions before starting, it is a lack of rain that has brought Cornwall‘s Charlie Watson-Smyth a dismal crop of Antonia winter barley.

“The farm had never looked better until mid-May” he said, but then the weather turned very warm and dry.

“My farm only received half an inch of rain in May and June, causing substantial damage to the crop.”

Most places are set to stay dry but remain overcast on Wednesday (July 14) according to FWi Weather Services.

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