Harvest Highlights: looking back on a tricky summer

For some growers, harvest 2006 was perhaps one of the earliest and driest on record thanks to the drought in July.

But for others, the constant rain interruptions throughout August halted combining and hit quality, with many in southern and eastern regions suffering particularly badly.

In total, 35% of crops were rated “good” by growers, compared with 58% last year, according to FWi’s overall UK crop performance analysis, collected from the harvest reports.

Winter barley harvest was rated as being similar to 2005, but oilseed rape, spring barley and winter wheat were all considered worse than last year.

According to our results, growers were unhappy with the performance of most wheat varieties, with some performing up to 40% down on last year. In particular, Claire fell from 72% of crops rated “good” in 2005 to 33% in 2006, Robigus from 78% to 43% and Einstein from 62% to 24%.

But as we started September, there was still wheat to cut in many areas. On Sept 1, Kent grower Peter Francis Coni still had 60ha (150acres) of winter wheat remaining near Ashford. “It has been quite wet in this part of Kent so harvest is still going,” he noted.

Ed Lankfer in Norfolk also had 60ha remaining and was cutting at moisture levels of 18-20% in order to get the crop in. “We haven’t had a decent day’s combining in three weeks – quality is deteriorating rapidly.”

Andrew Sedgwick told FWi (Sept 6) that there were still crops of spring beans and wheat remaining in the East Midlands. “There is talk of weather being good this week – if it holds to the weekend then they should get it finished.”

Many parts of Scotland had completed harvest early, having missed the bulk of the rain showers. Mike Cumming in Angus finished in record time on August 31. “It’s the first time it has ever been that early in the 15 years I’ve been here.”

However, in Northern Ireland, rain halted progress for three weeks and growers said a large majority of crops were still waiting to be cut.

Crumlin grower Gerald Erwin said (Sept 6): “Harvest has not really happened here, we’re just getting started. We have heard some of the crops have started to lodge, but our biggest problem will be getting the moisture levels lower.”

While more rain was forecast in the region, Richard Kane in Londonderry shared Mr Erwin’s concerns (Sept 5). “It’s going pretty slowly. Everything is overly ripe.”