Harvest 2020: Yields and quality variable as harvest moves north

Wheat and spring barley crops are very variable across the country, with protein issues in Wiltshire and nitrogen problems in Norfolk.


Spring barley harvest has just started in Lincolnshire, but the bulk of the crop isn’t ready yet, according to Woldgrain’s Dan Murphy. The store is expecting 13,500t of Planet and 5,000t of Laureate. “That’s the biggest spring barley intake we have ever had.”

Wheat quality has been very good, with hagbergs well in the 300s, proteins over 14% on average and specific weights up to 83kg/hl.

See also: How grain storage upgrade gave Sussex farm harvest flexibility

Craft winter malting barley also came in with good quality – specific weights of up to 68kg/hl and nitrogen at about 1.8%, with surprisingly low screenings.

“Oilseed rape was the horror story people were expecting, with yields of 2-3t/ha,” says Mr Murphy. However, oil contents were good at about 45%. What was really noticeable was the small area this year – the lowest for 12 years, with only about 6,000t likely to come into store – well down on six years ago at 16,000t.

So far, the store has only had about 17% of its total crop intake, at just over 11,000t. “If it carries on at this rate, it will take until October,” Mr Murphy adds.


Moving south into Norfolk, the dry weather means the combines are moving at pace, but it has also tempered yields, according to Andrew Dewing at Dewing Grain.

Unusually for the area, wheat has been cut before the spring barley. “It’s come fit really quickly in the recent hot, dry weather,” he says.

Early-drilled crops on good soils have done well at up to 12t/ha, but land that was wet or compacted during drilling – and lighter soils – have all suffered very disappointing yields at 4-5t/ha.

“That’s half what some would dream of. Yields are probably 25% lower on average than we want for wheat, but the quality is exceptional, with specific weights at 79-80kg/hl, and good hagbergs and proteins.”

Spring barley is just starting to come in and is showing very mixed samples with a tendency towards high nitrogen contents. “There are some lovely samples, but others are way over for nitrogen and will have to go for feed,” explains Mr Dewing.

Other issues include secondary growth and green grain due to the June rainfall. However, the intense heat at present has sucked out most of the sap. Moistures are as low at 10%, with most about 12-13%, and some growers have achieved up to 7t/ha.

“The lack of consistent low-nitrogen barley could become an issue, but because of Covid-19 there is still an oversupply of old-season product,” adds Mr Dewing.

Winter barley yields are down due the dry weather in the run-up to grain fill. “From a winter malting perspective, there has been a limited number of low-nitrogen samples and farmers have not had a great time with it.”


Moving into Wiltshire, harvest is in full swing at Trinity Grain, with spring barley flying into the store, according to store manager Izzie Lawrence. “We have had mainly Planet and Laureate and have just started to see Propino.”

Most growers are seeing low nitrogen contents, at 1.7% for Planet, less than 1.65% in Laureate, and 1.85-1.9% in Propino. “A few farmers put glyphosate on their barley, so we have had to keep that separate,” she adds.

Screenings are good and retention is up to 96-98%, but some of the samples are full of awns.

Wheat has proved more of a disaster than farmers were hoping. “They are either brilliant or terrible and the proteins just aren’t there – down at 11%,” she says.

However, Skyfall and Crusoe have both done well and hagbergs have been about 300-350secs, while specific weights are high at 78-80kg/hl across the board.

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