Essex grower Tom Bradshaw is seeing his winter wheat yields 2t/ha lower than he normally expects as the wet winter and spring drought have cut grain output.
As his two 35ft-header combines raced through a very short-strawed crop of the milling variety Siskin, yields were seen to be down nearly 20%, although the crop produced a reasonably bold grain sample.
Mr Bradshaw’s farm manager Oli Beckerlegge, at his farming business Proagri Ltd, says there is about 340ha of winter wheat to cut with the main wheat harvest getting under way on Wednesday (29 July).
“The Siskin is yielding 7-7.5t/ha compared with normally 9-9.5t/ha due to the awfully wet winter and the bone-dry spring,” he tells Farmers Weekly.
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The Group 2 milling variety was drilled on 9-10 October and it produced a crop short on straw and thinner than usual due to the adverse weather throughout the season.
The farming business has switched largely to Group 2 wheats, such as Siskin and the newer Extase, with an area of Group 1 Zyatt, due to the added expense of growing Group 1 wheats in terms of hitting the protein requirement.
The two Case 9230 Axial-Flow combines were gobbling up the crop in sunny weather this week and the majority of the crop is expected to be cut by the weekend. One early field of Siskin cut last week on poor land yielded 6.6t/ha.
Mr Bradshaw, who is also NFU vice-president, is based at Fletchers Farm, Fordham, near Colchester, and his main arable business is 1,250ha of whole farm contracting, growing crops within a 20-mile radius of the home farm.
Good grain quality
Other wheat growers are reporting lower yields but say grain quality – in terms of protein, Hagberg and specific weight – is generally good although some are reporting variable protein levels.
Grain traders are forecasting a sharply lower wheat harvest from the smallest wheat area in the ground since 1978, with heavy winter rains followed by a parched spring set to cut yields from the 2019 average of 8.9t/ha.
They are pencilling in a crop of 9.5-10m tonnes after 16.23m tonnes in 2019, with the AHDB planting survey earlier this month pointing to a wheat area down 25% at 1.36m hectares.