Harvest 2016: Early barley yields 0.5t/ha down on five-year average

Harvest is making slow progress across the South and Midlands, with early winter barley figures suggesting yields are down nearly 0.5t/ha on the five-year average.

Initial numbers from three AHDB trial sites in North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Suffolk show an overall yield average of 8.85 t/ha, down on the five-year average of 9.32 t/ha.

South West

In Somerset, winter barley samples were on the small side, with bushel weights averaging between 58kg/hl and 59kg/hl, according to John Collins, store manager at Kernow Grain and Cannington Grain.

“This is a little bit low, but quality is holding up slightly better in Cornwall,” he says. Crops are at least coming off dry, with moistures of about 15%. There is the odd good sample around.

The first delivery of oilseed rape had arrived at 11% moisture at the Kernow store in Cornwall, but yields were disappointing.

“It looks to be a small harvest and I cannot see it getting better,” says Mr Collins. However, while oilseed rape looks below par, winter wheat looks well, he says.


Harvest is further behind in Wiltshire, with very little barley or oilseed rape yet cut. What winter barley has been combined is again poor quality, although moisture contents are very low, with some down at 10.8%, says Claire Young, laboratory manager at Wiltshire Grain.

Specific weights are averaging 59kg/hl, but vary from 56-63kg/hl. “There have been some reports of winter barley brackling down, meaning it will be difficult to cut,” she adds.

Rain over the weekend has pushed oilseed rape moisture levels back up to 9%, but very little of the crop has been harvested yet, with some crops still two weeks away.

Oil contents have been variable, with one sample at 45% and another at 41.7%. “Farmers have been very quiet, with some unhappy about yields, but after last year, all yields will look bad,” says Ms Young.

South East

At GH Grain in Kent, Robert Preston had only seen a few samples of winter barley so far.

“Moisture contents are between 13.5% and 14.5%, with specific weights at 57-58kg/hl. That is the highlight and lowlight in one sentence,” he says.

A few bits of oilseed rape had come in, all very dry at less than 9% moisture. “There is an air of nervous anticipation as everyone is apprehensive about yields and quality,” he adds.

East Anglia

In Essex, Peter Wombwell has begun harvesting winter barley at Rectory Farm, Ickleton, Saffron Walden.

Tower came in very dry; between 8% and 13%, and he is slightly disappointed with the 60-64kg/hl specific weight until he heard it was better than others. The crop yielded an average of 7.9t/ha across 52ha.

Mr Wombwell has just sprayed off his peas, which he should be able to harvest in the next five to 10 days, but he is uncertain how they will perform as those on chalk have been slow to grow.

He also has 243ha of Skyfall and Knightsbridge wheat for seed which should be ready to harvest in the second week of August. “I just hope the wheat is not the same as the barley,” he says.

East Midlands

In Lincolnshire a few dribbles of feed and malting barley have arrived at Woldgrain store, according to Dan Murphy, laboratory and haulage manager.

“We have had about 1,000t of feed barley with bushel weights of 54-58kg/hl and very high screenings – up to 25%. We are uncertain about the remaining barley, but are hoping there is better feed barley out there.”

Mr Murphy has also seen wheat fields with a fair bit of fusarium in, although they are still two to three weeks away from harvesting.

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