Soil and sun drive yields

In one of the UK’s earliest combinable crop harvests, soil type linked to scattered summer rainfall is driving the results.

“We’ve never cut wheat before in July,” said Yorks-based former Farmers Weekly Barometer farmer Keith Snowball, who moved into Robigus after oilseed rape last Sunday.

With the heatwave leaving much southern winter barley and oilseed rape cleared and up to 20% of wheat in places cut before the end of July, yield variability is the dominant theme in reports.

“People got into wheats on thinner land last week and crops don’t look terribly special,” said Dalgety’s Barry Barker earlier this week.

“Winter barleys were pretty reasonable – up to 10t/ha especially on stronger land.

But oilseed rape has been very variable.”

United Oilseeds’ Chris Baldwin reckoned up to 80% of the southern rape crop was cut, but Yorkshire’s was only half done and Scottish growers were only just starting.

“Yields are similar to last year’s – maybe 5% down, but it’s really too early to say overall.”

The main issue was transport.

“Everybody wants it moved at once.”

“I think it’s a year when we’ll see soil type and agronomy highlighted,” said Frontier grain trader Mike Adams.

“There have been some good yields, but a lot of variability.”

Wheat samples from farms trying to economise on inputs were noticeably poorer than others.

In the Borders, about 75% of winter barley was in, with yields slightly back on last year, said his colleague Allan MacAulay.

“It’s very variable depending on soil type.

We’ve had very little rain since May and didn’t escape the heatwave.

But heavier land crops have performed well.”

Early signs were that oilseed rape might do better than further south, though there were reports of sclerotinia in Aberdeenshire.

“But there’s a lot of concern for spring barley in Scotland, which was very late drilled.”

By contrast it looked like being a “vintage year” for spring barley off southern chalkland, said Robin Appel’s Jonathan Arnold, though crops away from the chalk were faring less well.

“Oilseed rape yields have generally been disappointing and a lot of farmers say crops didn’t flower long enough.”

Grainfarmers’ Justin Reynolds reported wide variance in OSR output with sporadic rainfall and soil type clearly having an impact.

Some early wheat samples had been very poor, but quality was picking up on true wheat land, noted colleague Simon Ingle.