West: Focus is still on this season’s harvest

This months report will be more of a “Harvest Watch” rather than a Crop Watch. As yet there is little or none of the 2010/11 crop in the ground, although at the time of writing the ground is being prepared for the winter rape crop.

The harvest results in the Southwest have been extremely variable this year. The areas in the region that had enough rain or have moisture retentive soils have had some very sound results whilst the drought prone soils have returned some disappointing, but predictable yields.

Winter rape turned in some presentable results with the best crops yieding about the 5t/ha and the poorest turning in about 3.75t/ha. The best crops have yet again come from low biomass varieties such as ES Astrid and Castille. I remain convinced that this is not because they necessarily produce more seed, but that it is easier to retrieve and retain the seed that has been grown, with easy direct cut harvesting.

Winter barley crops have produced variable yields depending on moisture availability and place in the rotation. Some first barleys after breakcrops have produced yields as high as 11t/ha whilst barleys grown at the back end of the rotation have yielded in the region of 6t/ha. The new variety KWS Cassia has performed well, but so has the older variety Carat, grown on fertile sites.

I cannot remeber a harvest when wheat yields have been so varied. In the drier east of the region on the lighter soils yields have been as low as 6-6.5t/ha, but where lack of moisture has not been an issue we have seen some crops in excess of 12.5t/ha.

Two varieties that have performed extremely well this are year are both unlisted, one being Sahara and the other Lear. Lear in particular has produced some very large yields of both grain and straw, however in a wet year this variety will definitely require some careful lodging management. Specific weights so far have been very good, ranging from mid 70’s through to low 80’s.

The last week has seen some very humid and wet weather and I’m afraid we are looking at the spectre of sprouted grains again this year for many of the wheat crops not yet harvested. This will bring with it inevitable losses in both yield and quality. Once again (third year running) the variety Oakley has been among the first to sprout. This combined with the variety’s propensity to drop it’s heads if harvest is delayed means that it will in all liklihood be fairly short lived as a variety for this part of the world.

I hope by next month to have some crops to report on and that we will have had a successful conclusion to the 2010 harvest.

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