Harvest roundup: Combines under wraps

Combines are under wraps today (4 August), as rain spreads across much of the country – but many crops are not yet ripe, so shouldn’t come to harm.

In Norfolk, rain has stopped play at Prior Farm, Wrentham, and Roger Middleditch had been loading up straw.

“It’s had 7mm on rain on it, and the ram broke on the baler so there’s 4ha (10 acres) still lying out in the field.” However, the rain shouldn’t do any harm to standing crops, he said.

So far the wheat had been very mixed, even on the best ground. “Where we’ve been able to irrigate it’s done well, at 10t/ha (4t/acre), but where we couldn’t irrigate it been 6.2-7.4t/ha (2.5-3t/acre).”

Michael Manners had just finished cutting oilseed rape and winter barley at Conicliffe Grange, Staindrop, Durham before the rain arrived.

“We finished yesterday and it’s raining today – but nothing else is fit so it’s not spoiling.”

The Expower and Marcant oilseed rape had both averaged about 5t/ha (2t/acre), he said. “We’re delighted with that – it’s the best oilseed rape we’ve had.”

But James Francis’s oilseed rape was very disappointing at Manor Farm, Hemington, Somerset, having died off on thin ground.

The Cabernet and Eiffel both averaged about 2.5t/ha (1t/acre). “Where it did grow, it was alright – you could see the line where you went onto deeper soil.

“But on the gravel it didn’t have enough cover to keep the weeds down, so when it did rain the weeds made more of it than the rapeseed. It wasn’t very happy at all.”

Farmers had cut about 75% of winter barley and 65% of oilseed rape by Tuesday, according to the HGCA.

Wheat harvest was only about 5% complete, with yields so far lower than the five-year average of 7.8t/ha (3.2t/acre).

However, they varied widely from less than 4t/ha (1.6t/acre) on light land to 11t/ha (4.5t/acre) on heavier soils, and were unlikely to be representative of the whole harvest, said the report.

The variable harvest meant up to 50% of the malting barley crop could fail to reach the required specification, with high nitrogen contents causing considerable problems, said Stuart Shand at Gleadell Agriculture.

“The drought has really pushed nitrogen levels up this year and even the later winter barleys on the more drought resistant soils are trending higher.

“Even though the maltsters have raised their acceptance levels, supply is going to be vastly reduced and the demand will have to be met using extra spring barley.”

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