Harvest round-up: Racing the weather

Farmers are making the most of the dry weather spells, getting as much cut as possible before more persistent rain returns over the weekend.

In Kent, farmers had cut well over half of their spring barley, and quality was good so far, said John Smith, director at Weald Granary.

“Most of it is Tipple, and it’s weighing in at 64-65kg/hl, while some Gallant wheat is at 62kg/hl. That’s the first time I’ve ever known spring barley weigh more than wheat.”

Wheat harvest was about 20% complete in central southern England, with yields and quality both well below average.

“There are plenty of crops coming in now – mostly yields have been disappointing, but there are some really horrible crops out there,” said Mike Clay, manager at Hampshire Grain.

“The straw has been quite green so farmers have been struggling to find anything to go through the combine, so they’ve been moving from one field to another to keep busy.”

A tracked combine had been a real blessing this year for Troy Stuart, who was harvesting today (22 August) near Clyst St Mary, Exeter, Devon.

“Some of the fields are very wet and ground conditions are testing,” he said. “We got rained off on one farm yesterday, so have moved to another that missed the showers.”

In the north east of England and Scottish borders, harvest was making steady progress, with 65-70% of winter barley now cut.

Saffron and Cassia winter barley had yielded reasonably well, at about 7.4t/ha, said Gary Bright, managing director of Tynegrain.

“But Volume was a very popular variety following last year’s success, and the weather hasn’t suited it whatsoever.

“I’d say 70% of the winter barley has an average bushel weight of 55-56kg/hl, and yields have ranged from 3.7-8.6t/ha.”

In East Anglia, harvest was speeding along, with about 60% of wheat now cut, said Philip Darke at Camgrain.

“Yields are extremely variable – some near Thetford have been the best for five or six years, others have been the worst ever.”

Bushel weights were similarly erratic, ranging from 52kg/hl to 78kg/hl. “We’re getting quite a lot that are under 70kg/hl – the group three and four varieties have taken a real hammering.”

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