Harvest round-up: A sunny finale

Better weather has enabled combining to resume across the country, with farmers now gathering the last of their remaining crops.

In Berkshire, contractor George Brown had finally finished harvest at Sheepdrove Farm, Lambourn, and was now busy drilling wheat.

“We just had 16ha of wheat left to cut, but it wasn’t ripe before the weather broke,” he said. “It’s a pain when harvest drags on at this time of year, so we’re relieved to have got it cut.”

English farmers were likely to harvest 11.74m tonnes of wheat this year, according to preliminary figures from Defra and the NFU – almost 10% down on last year.

Defra’s June survey revealed that total wheat plantings – hampered by last year’s difficult autumn weather – were the smallest since the early 1980s, at 1.505m ha.

That was 19% down on last year’s acreage. But yields were 16% better, according to the NFU’s harvest survey, at 7.8t/ha – slightly above the five-year average of 7.7t/ha.

That was certainly the case in Inverness, where Jim Whiteford had had an excellent harvest at Shandwick Mains, Tain, with warm and dry weather making for very easy combining.

“It’s been very cheap and cheerful – the weather has just been wonderful,” he said. “We finished weeks ago – it was our earliest finish since 2002 and the second earliest on record.”

Yields had been slightly above average, and quality had been excellent, said Mr Whiteford.

But further south in Tyne & Wear, Andrew Crewdson had still got 60ha of spring beans to cut at Blagdon and Hartley Main Farms, Whitley Bay, and was hoping for some dry weather.

“The beans were quite late drilled, so are only just ready; but we keep getting sea mists,” he said. “If the sun comes out we might get on over the weekend.”

Harvest had been a real mix, with winter crops performing very badly, but spring crops doing extremely well, said Mr Crewdson. 

“It was so wet over the winter that any crops we did manage to harvest were full of bare patches. But the spring crops were the complete opposite.”

Over in Warwickshire, Joe Scott also had beans to cut at Ashby Ledger Farms, Rugby, but was concentrating on drilling wheat right now.

“There are quite a lot of beans to do in the area; I haven’t seen many that have been cut yet,” he said.

“There’s also some spring rape and spring barley left, but I think people are concentrating on getting the drilling done for now.”

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