Storms hamper harvest in the North

Wet weather has battered crops in the North over the past week, but further south farmers are reaching the end of harvest.

The North of Scotland had attracted the worst of the weather, said Bruce Ferguson, general manager at Aberdeen Grain. “It was very wet over the long weekend, which has done a bit of damage to crops; there’s been a bit of brackling in the spring barley.”

Further south, farmers had been combining between the showers, and spring barley yields and quality were generally very good, he said. “There is a bit of skinning, but nitrogen contents are very good, at 1.3-1.6%.”

Harvest was about a week behind normal, he added. “But this week, the forecast looks settled, so by the weekend they could have cut 30-35% of the spring barley in Aberdeenshire and 60-70% in central Scotland.”

Despite the wet weather, harvest progress across the UK was ahead of the five-year average, according to the HGCA. Later wheat crops had boosted yields to about 7.5-7.7t/ha, 3% below the five-year mean. Quality was good at 79-80kg/hl, 270-300 Hagberg and 12.1-13.8% protein, with most milling wheat now in the barn.

In HGCA trials to 27 August, wheat in the West of England had performed better than the East, at 10.4t/ha compared with 9.6t/ha. “However, averages don’t tell the whole story,” said recommended list manager Simon Oxley. “In the East, yields show greater extremes; ranging from 13.4t/ha in Kent to the lowest yield of 6.9t/ha coming from a second wheat site on light soils in Suffolk.”

Ben Atkinson said yields had been similarly variable at Grange Farm, Rippingale, Lincolnshire. “The drought seems to have exaggerated any inherent problems in the fields, so good land has been better than expected and poor land is perhaps worse than expected.”

After the wheat, Mr Atkinson had some Wizard beans to cut. “I’m not looking forward to them. “They are very stunted, and all podded at the bottom of the plant. They will be very difficult to combine and I don’t think they’ll yield all that well.”

In the South, farmers still had a surprising amount to combine, said Rob Sanderson at Openfield. “It’s strange – some people have finished, but some have still got an awful lot to do. The crops in Hampshire and Wiltshire are now starting to look a bit coloured, but they’re still standing.”

Many farmers had already finished harvest in Shropshire, and yields had been fantastic, said independent agronomist Bryce Rham. “Most of the wheat is yielding above average, and pretty much everyone has above average rapeseed.” Wheat yields ranged from 7.9t/ha to over 12.4t/ha, with heavy, fertile soils performing significantly better than light or tired land, he said.

Winter oats had yielded 6.2-8.6t/ha with spring barley about average at 6.2t/ha. “Our biggest problem now is that the soil is extremely dry – Shropshire is like a dustbowl. Unless we get some decent rain it’s going to be a real problem for the oilseed rape.”

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