Harvest finally under way – for now

Harvest is finally underway, about 10 days later than normal due to the poor spring and summer weather.

Winter barley harvest started in earnest in southern and eastern areas at the beginning of this week (23 July), with the long-awaited dry spell enabling combines to be unveiled.

“Further north there are occasional crops of winter barley that have been harvested, but the majority is unlikely to be ready until next week, with crops on higher land and in Scotland still 10-14 days away,” said a report by the HGCA.

“This may be one of the latest starts to harvest in recent years, with only an estimated 2-3% harvested up to Tuesday 24 July, compared to an average of 30% and an earliest of 75% at the same stage.”

Yield prospects were reasonable, with early indications ranging from 6.1-7.2t/ha. “However, with a combination of pigeon damage and lodging there is large variability both between and within fields.”

About 1% of the oilseed rape area had been cut by 24 July, compared to an average of 18% and an earliest of 40%, said the report.

“The majority of desiccated crops will not be ready until next week at the earliest. In Scotland crops are still green and many are not even ready for desiccation, these are unlikely to be ready for harvest until towards the middle or end of August.”

Early yield indications ranged from 3.3-3.7t/ha at 6.6-10% moisture, slightly lower than last year.

“An estimated 50% of the crop area is lodged to some extent, which can reduce yields by 15-50% and make harvesting slower and more difficult.”

Winter wheat crops were just starting to ripen in the south and east, with the main harvest set to be 14-21 days away, said the report.

“For most farmers yield prospects remain around average at best, with concern about specific weights.

“Given the wet weather at flowering and the increasing levels of fusarium in many crops this could be a major factor influencing quality this harvest.”

Spring barley harvest would probably begin in the south within 10-14 days, with March-drilled crops likely to yield well, but later drilled areas having suffered in the wet weather.

“Malting barley quality prospects seem reasonable given early nitrogen applications and good yield prospects, although mycotoxin levels could be high.”

Although the dry spell was set to remain into the weekend, the Met Office expected a return to unsettled weather next week, remaining changeable for much of August.

“Fields remain close to saturation and ripe crops do not transpire water so a return to heavy rainfall could soon disrupt harvest progress and increase risk of soil structural damage,” said the HGCA report.

Send us your harvest photos for our Harvest Highlights gallery.

For all harvest news go to our Harvest Highlights 2012 page.

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