West: August washout almost wrecks good harvest in Devon

With anything up to 6.5in of rain falling across the region in August the harvest was in danger of becoming a complete washout. The first 10 days of September have, however, seen us step back from the brink and have salvaged the situation.

With no crops emerged to report on in the area, this report is going to be more of a harvest roundup.

The winter rape crop was by and large good, but with a fair degree of variation. In general, those crops that came through the winter looking really well went on to be decidedly average, whilst those that looked a bit “iffy” through the winter went on to yield extremely well. All the old arguments about excessive green area index (GAI) are bound to re-surface again as we try to make sense of what is a notoriously difficult crop to manage and predict yield. In short, it is a lot easier to manage a rape crop that needs chasing in the spring, rather than one that needs holding back.

The winter barley crop was a complete surprise, as yields have been extremely good and on many units exceeding last year’s record yields. The exceptions to this were the crops where for one reason or another, nitrogen timings were delayed. This had a devastating effect on tiller survival and numbers and greatly reduced yield. The three week dry spell in mid-April made this situation worse than it would have been had we not had the dry spell. California and the old but reliable Cassia have again performed well in the area, out-yielding the six-row varieties and some of the newer and supposedly higher yielding 2-rows. Specific weights have been very high, with some reports of California turning in specific weights in the low 80’s.

The wheat harvest has proved more difficult, with only a small proportion of the crop harvested prior to the August deluge. Crops that were fully ripe, but not harvested prior to the breakdown in the weather suffered, with many crops growing out and quite a few going flat after the constant beating from wind and rain. However, once these crops were harvested yield and quality were still pretty presentable, hinting at how good they might have been had they been harvested on time.

Crops of wheat not spoilt by the weather have yielded extraordinarily well, with some yields considerably in excess of 12.5t/ha being reported. Top performers across the area have been JB Diego and Lear, both turning in large yields with very high specific weights. Second and continuous wheats have not performed at this level and in some crops take-all had a severe impact on yield and quality.

Spring barley has had another sound year with yields way above the five year average

Looking forward to the 2015-16 season, we can expect the wheat that is due to be drilled after maize to be planted later than usual, as the maize crop is currently weeks behind in terms of maturity, with little prospect, at this time of year, of the situation changing. The winter rape crop is late going in due to the delay in the wheat harvest, but this may be a blessing in terms of not getting too large a GAI.

Good luck all with planting the 2015/16 crops.

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