Harvest Highlights – Wheat quality and yields indifferent

After a delayed and catchy start, the harvest in England is proceeding apace as a result of warmer weather and a drying breeze.

According to Grainfarmers regional teams although quality and yields are indifferent, the general feeling is one of relief – the 2007 harvest could have been so much worse.

However, Scotland is currently less fortunate.  With 1.5” of rain across the country’s main arable regions in the last 24 hours, growers are playing a waiting game.


South England

Not particularly good but much better than once feared, summarises the wheat harvest, so far, in the South, according to Paul Taylor of Hants-based Grainfarmers seeds and southern sales manager.

“Farmers in the south of the country – Oxfordshire down to the south coast – are now well into the wheat and generally it’s disappointing.

Soft wheats, the backbone of our exports, are only sub 200 Hagbergs – usable for domestic markets but not good enough for export,” he says. “They caught the drought and then the rain. However, yields are less badly affected than many feared; about 10% down,” he adds

Where there was less rain, further east into Kent, aside from some hail devastated crops, growers are still getting some good yields and quality, he reports.

Although there is some rain forecast, it’s now accelerating towards a very speedy harvest, hampered only a little by some crops that re-tillered after being hit by the spring drought. “In these crops, there’s several weeks difference in maturity in tillers. These are going to need very careful storage. I would strongly advise against putting them on floors that don’t have vents underneath,” says Mr Taylor.

East Anglia

For East Anglian growers, the 2007 OSR and winter barley will not be memorable as a good cropping year, comments Grainfarmers regional general manager, Stephen Howlett.

A delayed start to the harvest was followed by OSR yields that have been “substantially down”, although winter barley yields and quality are only slightly below par. “Barley is usable, but not outstanding,” he says.

With OSR and winter barley “100% done”, attention is now focused on the wheat, for which secondary growth is proving a problem in many crops, according to Stephen Howlett.

“Though still too early to call, the indications are that wheat yields are 10-15% behind last year.  Quality however, looks alright although proteins are a little lower,” he adds.

North East England

“The weather picked up just at the critical time,” says Grainfarmers arable business manager in North East England, Nigel Britland. “The oilseed rape will be finished by the middle of the week, the winter barley’s all in bar a bit of tidying up on the Wolds, and we’re about 20% of the way through the wheat now.”

Rape yields are “disappointing” at an average of around 3.7t/ha for what is a traditionally high-yielding area. Although barley yields are OK at 7.4t/ha for malting and 8.6t/ha for feeds, malting quality is disappointing with higher grain nitrogens than usual.

As for northern wheats it is too early to get a really accurate picture. Mr Britland fears that the suspected impact of spring drought will be realised. “Crops on the lighter soils, where tillers were dropped, have never recovered and early yields are well down.

“On heavier soils, yields are looking reasonably good, at around 10t/ha. However, quality is variable. Bushel weights range from the mid 60s to 80kg/hl and Hagbergs vary from 80 to 300 plus.

“Where the worst of heavy summer rain fell, around S Yorks and the Humber area, some 50% of crops are lodged, and though quality has been badly affected, growers are relieved that yields are better than once feared.

“The best news is that, though there might be some compacted ground at the end of the harvest, the sight of bogged combines has completely dissipated,” says Mr Britland.  “If the forecast is to be believed then harvest in the Vale of York will be done by the middle of August – a fantastic turn around.”


Scotland is now getting “a mirror image of what England was getting three weeks ago,” according to Grainfarmers, Aberdeenshire-based Scottish Manager Bruce Ferguson.

Combines worked through the latter half of the week, but were halted when heavy rain swept in over the weekend bringing up to 1.5” of rain to many arable regions.

“The oilseed rape harvest was just getting underway with intake’s steady,” says Mr Ferguson, who reckons that some 15% of the crop has now been brought in.

Around 70% of the 55,000 ha of winter barley grown in Scotland has been cut. Yields and quality have been very variable with many reports back from growers no better than average, says Mr Ferguson.

Even if the rain clears away, the ground remains the problem. “It’ll take a while to dry out from the deluges we’ve had in the last couple of days,” he reports.

Looking further ahead, Mr Ferguson reckons the earliest wheats won’t be harvested in Central Scotland much before mid August and the earliest spring barley crops are still two to three weeks away but highlights that both crops will come to harvest quickly if the weather conditions were more favourable.

“If we could see some settled weather this may also help hold up the quality of spring barley’s especially those further from harvesting, although yield must now be affected.’’ he says.


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