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DRY WEATHER during June/July means many winter barley crops – particularly those further south – are now ready for harvest and initial results show grain moisture contents are low.
But, early FWi Harvest Highlights reports suggest winter barley and oilseed rape yields are unlikely to be much improved on last season.
Berkshire farmer Colin Rayner has harvested 40ha (100acres) of Pearl winter barley. Grain moisture has so far been low at 11%, but yields are some 2t/ha down on last year, at 8t/ha, he said.
Oilseed rape yields of 3.5t/ha (1.4t/acre) are slightly above last harvest, but are still disappointing, he said. “We knew this year would be difficult but we didn’t realise it would be this poor.”
FARMERS WEEKLY Farmer Focus writer, Mark Ireland has just started combining Pearl winter barley, which is coming off at 13-13.5% moisture.
But yields of 2.75t/acre are not significantly above last year’s rain-affected harvest, he noted.
Weather permitting, other growers in the south are looking to start combining over the next few days and are cautiously optimistic about prospects.
See below for the full regional reports and watch out for FWi’s full Harvest Highlights section coming very soon.
Pearl winter barley is coming off at 13-13.5% moisture at FARMERS WEEKLY’s Farmer Focus writer, Mark Ireland’s Grange Farm in Lincolnshire.
“The sun is shining and it’s nice and dry,” he said.
He described the dry weather as “good news at the moment” as the farm dryer is out of action thanks to an electrical fire, and also because he isn’t having to burn expensive diesel to get the crop into store.
The variety is yielding 2.75t/acre which is not significantly above last year, despite the weather being “completely different” to the torrential rains of 2004.
Mr Ireland said he is “relatively pleased “with screenings of around 1.55-1.6%. “They are on a par with last year.”
Charles Harper said it remained “hot and dry” on Harps Farm on the Essex/Herts border. Crop progress is running 5-10 days ahead of last year.
But with mostly heavy land he is hopeful that crops will not suffer too much. Growing 1st wheats come out better than 2nd wheats do in this weather, he said.
“Things are looking alright at the beginning.”
With the oilseed rape having been sprayed 7 days ago, it was not ready yet, and the wheat harvest also looked “some time off”.
Mr Carter added that “things look reasonable, but until you get a combine in there you never know.”
Despite the very hot weather, Colin Rayner is struggling with the harvest on his 2500 acre farm in Windsor, Berkshire.
He has cut 40ha (100acres) of Pearl winter barley, and is trying to cut as much as he can because of concerns of rain later this week.
He is “very disappointed” with the yield of only 8t/ha compared to 10t/ha last year.
This very dry June has resulted in 11% moisture, and the development of very small berries.
“The only good thing is that we have lots of straw”, Mr Rayner said.
With 20ha (50acres) of oilseed rape harvested the crop averages 1.4t/acre which is an increase on last year’s yield of 1.25t but he is still disappointed.
“We knew this year would be difficult but we didn’t realise it would be this poor,” Mr Rayner claimed.
Due to the Single Farm Payment Mr Rayner expects to drop barley and rape from the rotation next year.
“It may be a sad day as we have been growing [barley and rape] for 25 years and it just might be our last harvest.”
Forty hectares (100acres) of Carat winter barley was “drying quickly” from the “intensely hot” weather, said Jeremy Walker from Haddon Farm in Bridgewater, Somerset.
Mr Walker told FWi: “We haven’t tested the moisture but it is going down”. He hopes to start harvest on Saturday (July 16), although some neighbours have already begun.
Although “things have dried up rapidly”, he said it still looked promising, and he was pleased that the crop was still standing.
Haddon Farm sprayed Roundup (glyphosate) on the oilseed rape, needing around 10 days before harvest can start. Roundup will also be sprayed on the later-drilled varieties which were “coming in quite fast”.
Hopes are high, but of the growing crops Mr Walker said, “everything just needs a good drink”.
Penncroft Farms in Farnham, Surrey, were preparing for a “very optimistic” harvest on “another lovely hot, sunny day”.
“We’ll probably start on Saturday,” said Giles Porter.
Wheat varieties include Access, Claire, Malacca, Solstice, Einstein and Gladiator which all looked “reasonably good and possibly a bit better than last year”.
The rape looked “full of potential”, and both the quality and the yield was “definitely looking better than last year” with a thicker crop and lower disease levels.
The beans also appear better than last year, with nicer pods. Mr Porter was “very optimistic about the spring beans”.
But, the barley was not looking so good on the heavy ground and was “slightly [too] dry from the heat”.
The corn was ripening fast on Heathfield Manor Farm in Taunton, Somerset, after it had been “stiflingly hot for three days”, Richard Payne said. “Everything is looking good.”
The early wheat was affected by Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus, but Mr Payne added that the later-drilled wheat looked good. Claire is the main variety plus some Robigus and Nijinsky.
Overall, Mr Payne said the wheat looked better than last year, “but then you never know until it’s in the barn”.
The winter barley, which he said was sprayed off last week, should be ready by next week, followed shortly by Winner and Harper oilseed rape.
Cooper peas were “just starting to senesce so will be a while”.
Meanwhile, Syncro spring beans and Wizard winter beans were all “well podded and looking good, as long as they stay up”.