Harvest Highlights: growers count the cost of heavy rain

Growers have been left counting the cost of heavy rain and flooding after over 125mm (5in) rain fell in parts of central and southern England last week.

The west Midlands and the Thames valley were particularly badly affected, but growers in many regions – even those that escaped the worst of the rain – are struggling with saturated soils.

Richard Beldam near Evesham thought he had been “incredibly fortunate” to have only lost 20 acres of wheat after the river Avon burst its banks. Just 150 acres of his 1,000 acres of oilseed rape had been cut so far, and combining had to be held-off as the ground was too wet. “We’re going to have to try and run the trailers just on the headlands,” he noted.

Farmers Weekly Farmer Focus writer Richard Ward said he had already had the usual annual rainfall and was on his way to pick up a set of wide combine wheels today (23 July).

Most flood water had drained away and he was surprised by how well wheat crops had coped with the downpours. “I’m stunned by how the wheat has stood up. Only some of the beans and oats look like they have taken a battering.”

Nick Oakhill from Glencore also thought wheat crops had fared reasonably well. “Some has lodged, but what’s standing looks ok.”

He estimated that 15-20% of winter barley and oilseed rape had been cut so far, compared with nearer 50% by this stage in the summer normally. “The quality of winter barley hasn’t been the prettiest, but it’s technically sound. We are concerned about what’s going to happen with quality from now onwards though.”

Oilseed rape had started to chit in the pods on Edward Whitfield’s farm near Spalding. He had harvested about 80ha (200 acres) of Castille, Lioness and Astrid oilseed rape with yields of 3-4.2t/ha (27-34 cwt/acre) depending on how his crops had been affected by hail and heavy thunderstorms.

Yorkshire farmer Andrew Middlewood said he had cut about a third of his Pearl winter barley, but his Castille oilseed rape remained uncut. He was prepared to cut the rape at 13-14% moisture to avoid seed chitting in the pods, but more rain had raised the water table and caused ponding and wet holes, making combining really difficult.

“You can’t even travel down the tramlines,” he commented.

But progress was much better in Northern Ireland, where Farmers Weekly’s barometer farmer James Wray was well into combining his 28ha of Pearl winter barley this morning.

“We’ve had fantastic weather over the weekend,” he said. “We started yesterday and have done about 12 acres. I reckon the first field did about 3.4t/acre. That’s not too bad, but I reckon it would have been higher if we hadn’t had such a wet winter.”

* If you’ve got a harvest story then call our dedicated harvest reporter David Kemp on 020 8652 4073. You can also get involved on the new FWiSpace forums where you can chat directly with other farmers and share the high and lows of what is shaping up to be a challenging summer.

You can also share your harvest pictures by sending them to david.kemp@rbi.co.uk who will make sure they appear on our dedicated Harvest Highlights 2007 Picture Gallery

If you prefer, we can set you up with your own gallery where you can upload pictures at any time to share them with other farmers.

We are hoping to print a selection of the best harvest pictures submitted each week in Farmers Weekly magazine. Please be aware that for use in the magazine we will need pictures to be taken using the highest quality setting on your camera.

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