Harvest 2017: Rain leads to combining frustration

Heavy downpours of rain over the past week are leaving many cereal and oilseed rape growers feeling frustrated, and have caused disappointing harvest results in some places.

Stephen Moore, near Salisbury, is disheartened by the level of sprouting in his crop of Planet malting spring barley.

“I’ve cut 30ha of Planet so far. Yields have varied between 7.41t/ha and 9.27t/ha but there has been a lot of pre-germination – between 12% and 20% – due to the humid, wet weather. It’s very disappointing,” he said.

See also: The 5 top-yielding winter barley varieties of harvest 2017

With 40ha still to cut, Mr Moore feared huge financial losses should his barley not make the malting grade.

With just over 76ha of Illustrious and Crusoe milling winter wheat now fit to cut he was not holding out much hope for the harvest.

“There is nothing you can do to prepare for the weather. We’ve got the quantity but not the quality,” he added.


Further south, the feeling of disappointment was echoed at Tregirls Farm, Padstow, Cornwall.

Charlie Watson-Smyth has cut 89ha of Maris Otter malting winter barley and said yields hadn’t been brilliant.

Barley harvest in cornwall © Charlie Watson-Smyth

© Charlie Watson-Smyth

“Yields this year have averaged around 6t/ha. Though yields are pretty poor, I expected the worst – this is better than I had feared,” he said.

Quality was slightly more positive with an average specific weight of 66kg/hl, added Mr Watson-Smyth.

He also has 120ha of Propino malting spring barley to harvest, but this should be under way by the first week of August.


Harvest was looking more promising at Manor Farm, Heathfield, Somerset. With all 49ha of oilseed rape now cut, results were average, said Richard Payne.

“Yields have varied depending on variety. However, the conventional varieties have outperformed the hybrids – I think I will be growing just conventional oilseed rape next season,” he added.

Hybrid crops on the farm included varieties Exalte and Extrovert, which yielded 4.4t/ha and 4.47t/ha, with oil contents of 44-45%. However, this was trumped by conventional choices Trinity and Nikita – both averaging 4.7t/ha.

Mr Payne had also cut 12ha of Irina and Sanette spring barley and 12ha of Graham winter wheat, leaving 142ha of winter wheat still to cut.

“It’s been a stop-start season, but when it has gone, it has gone very well,” he said.


Despite delays due to the rain, Tony Pulham was optimistic in Suffolk, with winter barley results better than expected at Hugh Pulham Farms, Stowmarket.

“We have harvested all 158ha of the hybrid variety Bazooka and yields have averaged 9.4t/ha – I am quite happy with that. Based on our 10-year average of 8.4t/ha, the harvest hasn’t been too bad,” he said.

The farm had also harvested 132ha of oilseed rape, comprising varieties Incentive, Charger and Sky.

“I’m most impressed by Incentive, which yielded around 4.7t/ha. However, I won’t be growing Sky again as it’s not the easiest to combine,” he said.

Winter wheat was also fit to cut on the farm, but wet weather had halted harvesting.

The weather had also caused havoc for fellow Suffolk farmer, Stuart Baker, at Ivy House Farm, Laxfield.

“The rain has been very frustrating. However, the barley and rape harvest has finished and I’m fairly happy with the results,” he said.

The farm grew 26ha of Cassia winter barley in three separate blocks this season, which yielded between 8.9t/ha and 10.1t/ha. Specific weights averaged 69kg/hl, while moisture ranged between 14% and 15%.

The 80ha of Wembley, Ovation and Picto oilseed rape also performed well, massively exceeding last year’s yields, said Mr Baker.

“This year we have averaged 4.7t/ha for the oilseed rape, which is an awful lot better than last year where yields plummeted to 3.5t/ha,” he added.