Harvest roundup: Severe weather frustrates again

Torrential rain has affected many part of the UK today (25 August), with the Met Office issuing severe weather warnings for the next few days.

Half an inch of rain had fallen in two hours at Jon Bond’s Trerule Farm, Saltash, Cornwall, causing serious problems.

“We’re trying to stop the potato field that we finished harvesting this morning from running down the road – it’s even washing out of stubble fields.”

Despite the weather, contractor John Moss had managed to cut all bar 16ha (40 acres) of wheat at the farm. “He’s doing sterling work in extremely trying conditions.”

Harvest was making very slow progress in Northumberland, but wheat yields were proving fantastic, said Sentry Farming’s Andrew Crewdson.

“Harvest is becoming a nightmare; all the winter barley and rapeseed is done, and 60% of the oats, but wheat is only about 10% through, and we haven’t even started spring barley up here.”

In Norfolk, Stephen Betts had finished harvest at Thornham Farms, Thornham, and was pleased with yields despite the dry spring.

“We irrigated all of our wheat and barley – if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have got anything like the yields we did.”

Cabernet oilseed rape yielded 3-3.7t/ha (1.25-1.5t/acre), with Tipple spring barley coming off at 5.6-6.2t/ha (2.25-2.5t/acre) and Duxford winter wheat at 7.4-8t/ha (3-3.25t/acre).

Despite the recent rain, harvest progress was ahead of the five-year average, said a report by HGCA.

Drier weather in the Midlands and North-East had enabled farmers to combine a lot over the past week, with around two-thirds of the combinable crop harvest now in the barn.

Wheat harvest was 70% complete by Tuesday (23 August), with later crops producing better yields and boosting the average to 7.5-7.7t/ha (3-3.1t/acre), 3% below the five-year mean.

Winter barley harvest was almost complete, but less than a third of malting samples were testing below 1.85% nitrogen, with almost half of the crop exceeding 1.95%, said Stuart Shand, director at Gleadell Agriculture.

“Maltsters have altered their specifications and taken as high a nitrogen as they can, but they now need low nitrogen barley to bring that average down.”

Overall, winter barley was probably averaging 1.95% nitrogen, compared to 1.85% in a normal year.

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