Harvest 2018: Grain stores report good barley quality

Britain’s barley harvest is well under way and grain stores are reporting generally good-quality crops so far, although yields are proving variable.

East Anglia

According to Phil Darke, operations manager at Camgrain, the UK harvest was as far ahead as France’s – although they have had slightly more rain.  

“We’ve had a little bit of Venture malting barley, which had a nitrogen content of 1.7%. I was surprised how low the nitrogen was.

See also: What to consider when choosing next year’s winter crops

“Screenings have been up to 30% which might be an indicator that protein could be lower this year.” Crops had been very dry with moisture contents about 11.5%.


It’s still early days for Devon and West Country Grain hasn’t seen very much barley as yet, said Ed Chudleigh, regional business manager at West Country Grain.

Yields are all over the place, but quality is good with specific weights averaging 65-68kg/hl and the grain is dry at 13% moisture. “The heatwave will affect the yields – but it’s too early to tell.

“The two row varieties are producing better bushel weights than the six-rows,” he said. Bushel weights are particularly suffering on chalky ground.

Winter barley pours out of a combine harvester into a trailer

© Tim Scrivener


Further north, winter barley looks pleasing on lighter ground, but the heavier ground is suffering, said Martin Smart, share farmer near Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

“It’s gone from one extreme to the other – getting drowned one minute to burned heads.” Mr Smart has cut 70ha of Bazooka and Belfry hybrid winter barley and has a further 150ha left. Yields are variable at 7.4-8.6t/ha.

Bushel weights are pleasing, at 68-70kg/hl – higher than the past two years, while moisture is low at 11-12.5%. Straw quality is good, with a bright yellow colour.

As a share farmer Mr Smart has seen how crops are faring on different soils, with those on brashy ground looking better than crops on heavier soil, which suffered in the wet spring.

“They didn’t like having their feet in the water all winter,” he said. Perhaps surprisingly, bushel weights are higher on the lighter ground.

Next, he will be moving on to oilseed rape then on to wheat. “I don’t think wheat will be too exciting, but you can never tell, and the spring barley looks promising on the chalk over clay soil.”


Heading east, barley yields seem satisfactory, according to Stuart Attridge, grain director at Harlow Ag.

“Not great but not a disaster with prices 10-20% more than last year.”

There are no issues on quality so far, with specific weights from 64kg/hl to 68kg/hl.

However, the grain is coming off the field very hot and bleached – much like in Northern Europe, with Scandinavia struggling with very dry weather, he added.

So far, very little oilseed rape has been cut, with early crops proving variable and slightly disappointing.  

Wheat is likely to be cut in the South East from the end of next week.