Harvest hampered by variable yields and quality

Harvest is making rapid progress in the East, but wheat yields and quality are all over the place.

By mid-week farmers had cut about 60% of their wheat in East Anglia, said Philip Darke at Camgrain. “Yields are extremely variable – some near Thetford have been the best for five or six years, others have been the worst ever.”

Bushel weights were similarly erratic, ranging from 52kg/hl to 78kg/hl. “We’re getting quite a lot that are under 70kg/hl – the group three and four varieties have taken a real hammering.” However, about two-thirds of the group one and two milling wheats would average 74kg/hl after being cleaned up.

Spring barley was coming off well, with good yields, low nitrogen contents, and just a little bit of skinning. “It’s looking like good stuff.” Winter barley yields and quality had been excellent, but oilseed rape yields were about 10% down on last year, at around 3.7t/ha.

It was a similar picture in Kent, where many farmers were finishing cutting wheat, said Charles Roberts, grain marketing director at GH Grain. “It’s a very mixed picture – but by and large most of the milling wheat is OK. It’s the out and out feed varieties that are the real problem, at 65-70kg/hl.”

Yields ranged from 5t to 12t/ha. “There doesn’t seem to be any pattern or reason behind it – although I don’t think with the milling wheat it’s varietal; it’s more down to agronomy.”

In central southern England, farmers were having to switch between crops as much of the straw was still green, said Mike Clay, manager at Hampshire Grain. Wheat harvest was about 20% complete, with yields and quality both well below average. “There are some really horrible crops out there.”

Wet ground conditions had been a real problem for many farmers further west, with a tracked combine proving a blessing for Troy Stuart, who was harvesting near Clyst St Mary, Exeter, Devon. “Ground conditions are testing,” he said. “We got rained off on one farm on Tuesday, so moved to another that missed the showers.”

In the North East and Scottish borders, harvest was making steady progress, with 65-70% of winter barley now cut. “The weather is playing havoc,” said Gary Bright, managing director at Tynegrain. Volume winter barley had been particularly badly affected. “I’d say 70% of the winter barley has an average bushel weight of 55-56kg/hl, and yields have ranged from 3.7-8.6t/ha.”

The earliest wheat was proving variable in yield, but bushel weights had not caused a problem so far, he added.

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