Harvest Highlights: drought-hit wheat fears grow

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With some wheat crops already in the barn, fears are growing over what impact the recent hot, dry weather has had on yields and quality.

Norfolk farmer Robert More expects to be cutting wheat in about a week’s time, but said some of the crops – even the first wheats – started dying off in June. “I have major concerns for wheat.”

He is growing a number of varieties including Mascot, which he says appears to have been less affected by the drought and would be interested to know if anyone else had similar experiences.

“Our wheat in Suffolk looks to have burnt off a bit early – particularly the second wheats,” said Andrew Philpot, who farms near Ipswich. “We’re expecting an average, not a bumper year with first wheats.”

Wheat harvest is likely to be a week ahead of normal for Lincolnshire farm manager Jim Beeden and he is also concerned about the effect of the recent heat wave, especially on crops on lighter land.

He is reasonably happy with the 120ha (300 acres) of Winner and Castille oilseed rape that has been cut so far, with most crops yielding around 3.5t/ha. “It’s alright, but we would have liked to be nearer 3.7-3.9t/ha.”

But Shropshire-based Alastair Home-Roberts said the 16ha of Claire wheat he has cut yielded a quarter of a ton more than what he would normally expect from early milling wheat.

Crops delivered “bang on 3.5t/acre” at only 12.5% moisture with a specific weight of 77kg/hl. “Some wheats around here have just died off on the lighter land, though first crops after potatoes have held on well.”

Ian Sparey in Worcestershire also said his first-wheat Einstein had fared well compared with many other local crops – especially those on lighter land.

Yields came in at 7.4-8.6t/ha (3-3.5t/acre) at an initial moisture content of 14.5%, which soon fell to 13.2%. “It hasn’t died off compared with some round here.”

See FWi’s Harvest Highlights section for the regional reports in full and more from around the country, updated every day.