Harvest 2018: Barley yields better than feared

The winter barley harvest is in full swing across the UK with many farm records broken for the earliest start, one north-west grower started three weeks earlier than normal.

Yields so far are mixed, although some farmers are finding they are not as bad as first feared, given the dry, hot conditions.


One farmer pleasantly surprised with their barley yields is Ally Hunter Blair in Herefordshire.  

“Our neighbour’s winter barley – which we’ve been cutting – has come off alright – better than expected – we’re getting yields of 8.3t/ha,” 

“The yield is less than last year but by no means devastating. Not the best but far better than anticipated.”

See also: Advice on picking the right OSR varieties to drill this autumn

These results were particularly pleasing given the farm, near Ross-On-Wye, is on very light, drought-prone sandy soils.

Harvest was around three weeks ahead of schedule, which Mr Hunter Blair said had caught them by surprise.

“The combine is out earlier than ever before and the grain stores weren’t even ready.”

A combine works in a field of barley on Ally Hunter-Blair's farm

Having finished cutting the 15ha of winter barley, concerns were now turning towards his own wheat crops.

“The wheat is dying in front of my eyes, but I can’t be too negative yet – the weather is never going to suit everyone,” he said.

There are also concerns about plants having enough water to fill the oilseed rape and grain.


Heading south east into Berkshire, winter barley harvest was almost complete at Rookery Farms, near Newbury, as the crops had died rather than ripened.

“Yield has been disappointing, as we’re on light soil,” said farmer Dan Willis.  

“So far we have seen 6t/ha from Glacier and 7.2t/ha from Bazooka. The bushel weight has been 64-66kg/hl, at 11% moisture.”

Two combines work in a field of winter barley on Dan Willis' farm

This was despite the 680ha crop looking full of promise earlier in the season, he added. “We hoped for better but the weather robbed us.”

Turning to oilseed rape and wheat crops, Mr Willis suspected they would be ready to meet the combine in about 10 days’ time.


On the Norfolk/Suffolk border Andrew Blenkiron, estate manager at Euston Estate, was two-thirds of the way through winter barley harvest.

The Bazooka had yielded very well, said Mr Blenkiron. “Yields are around 7.1t/ha with a bushel weight of 60-62kg/hl at 10% moisture. It looked incredibly well all year and the straw is excellent.”

With thoughts now turning to wheat harvest, he hoped to achieve 12.3t/ha from both Skyfall and Solstice, which would be combined next, three weeks ahead of schedule.

A combine works through winter barley on Andrew Blenkiron's farm

“If we achieve this, we’ll be doing incredibly well. I am concerned about the bushel weight, but I think it will have good protein.”


Back into southern England, Andy Fussell was cutting winter barley two weeks earlier than normal at Fussell Farms, Frome, Somerset.

“It’s dry but not really fit – the straw is still green, but the head is dry,” he said. “Being in a dairy area, no one wants this.”

In terms of yield and quality, the crop averaged 8.6t/ha with bushel weights of 65kg/hl.

With oilseed rape and wheat crops still in the ground, concerns were growing around how the lack of rain would affect this year’s harvest.

“Oilseed rape looks alright, but the wheat is struggling – it’s turning very quickly.  But anything drilled later seems to be doing alright.”

Mr Fussell hoped to start cutting oilseed rape within the next 10 days, though wheat harvest was not likely to start until August – still a week earlier than usual.

“My main concern is how pinched wheat will be. Rain isn’t going to make a difference now – we’ll get what we’ll get,” he said.

How to keep up to date this harvest with Farmers Weekly

There are three ways to make sure you are up to date with all the latest harvest 2018 developments:

  1. By our Harvest Live Twitter account (@FWharvest). Don’t forget to use #Harvest18 when tweeting.
  2. By visiting our Harvest Live Facebook page (@FWHarvestLive). 
  3. By checking out our dedicated harvest page with all the news and analysis

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