Early winter wheat harvest down by 2t/ha in Dorset

Winter wheat harvest started two weeks earlier than usual for Dorset farm manager Tom Matthews, making him one of the earliest growers in the UK to cut wheat this season.

However, initial yields of Extase wheat are down by 2t/ha on the farm’s 10t/ha aim, after a challenging growing season that was either “too wet, too cold or too dry”.

See also: Frustrations build as rainstorms cause harvest havoc

“We made a start on the wheat before we even finished oilseed rape.

“Cutting wheat before rapeseed is strange, but with dry conditions earlier in the season and the cold easterly wind, the crop droughted-out on our light, brashy soils.

“We would usually start combining wheat in the first week of August, so we are very much ahead. Yields are coming in at 8t/ha, whereas last year we were achieving 11t/ha,” says Tom.

Managing 300ha of arable at Manor Farm, near Sherborne, Tom says crops struggled to uptake nitrogen during the early growth stages when conditions were wet and cold.

“We never got enough nitrogen into the plants early enough and then the crops droughted-out.

“We applied an additional foliar spray to help, but yields are down despite the extra fertiliser pass,” he says.

Specific weights came in at 79kg/hl with a moisture content of 16% and plentiful straw yields.

“With the current wet weather preventing further harvest, it looks like it could be another two weeks before combining resumes.”

Tom says crops of February-drilled malting spring barley look promising, while the early harvest is proving beneficial for cover crop establishment.

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