Wet weather hampers harvest progress

Wet weather is hampering harvest progress across the country this week, with mixed yields being achieved on the areas cut so far.

Farmers managed to make inroads to winter barley and oilseed rape before the weather broke. In the Cambridgeshire area, winter barley on light land had yielded as badly at 1.2t/ha, with crops on stronger land topping 7.4t/ha, said Philip Darke, store manager at Camgrain.

Nitrogen contents had also been affected, with lighter yielding crops presenting higher nitrogen levels. “Overall, nitrogen contents are probably at 1.9%, compared with 1.8% last year. There’s a lot of regrowth in some crops as well, but where they have yielded well the grains are big and bold.

Oilseed rape had performed well so far, at about 3.7t/ha, but nothing had been cut since Saturday (16 July). “We’ll probably start seeing wheat next week, if the sun comes out.”

Harvest was off to a poor start at Peter Wombwell’s Rectory Farm, Ickleton, Essex, although later crops were more promising. The first block of oilseed rape – Excalibur – yielded just 1.2t/ha on very light land. “It was dreadful – it just ran out of water and died.”

However, the second block, of PR46 W21, yielded much better on stronger land, at 4.6t/ha. “I think all of harvest is going to be as variable, according to soil type.”

It was a similar story at Sandon Lodge Farm, Chelmsford, Essex, where Richard Spackman’s oilseed rape yields ranged from 1t/ha to 5t/ha. “Anything on hot, sharp, gravelly land has just died off.”

Further north, Saffron winter barley yields had varied between 3.7t/ha and 7.4t/ha, and averaged almost 6.2t/ha at Alan Hind’s Elm Tree Fm, Counthorpe, Lincolnshire. “It wasn’t too disastrous – we couldn’t complain at that.”

In the West, crops have fared significantly better. In Dorset and Wiltshire, winter barley was yielding about 8-9t/ha, with oilseed rape at 4-4.5t/ha, said Nick Matthews, trading director at Wessex Grain. “It’s pleasantly pleasing against what we thought could happen. We’ve started reasonably well and are quietly confident that will continue.”

Oilseed rape was not quite fit yet. “I don’t think the rain this week will do any harm – the combining was well up to date, so it will be alright if we can get going again next week.”

Malting barley samples were good so far. And markets for feed wheat and barley were extremely short for harvest movement, which should support prices, he added. “The supply and demand was always going to be tight, particularly of feed wheat for early August.”

Harvest was 10 days earlier than last year at Andrew Symonds’ Lincoms Farm, Hartlebury, Worcestershire, where Flagon winter barley had averaged 6.75t/ha at 13.8% moisture, and 1.65% nitrogen. “We struggle to get 7.4t/ha on our ground, so I was pleasantly surprised.”

No spread zones

Growers are being urged to consider the new cross-compliance regulations coming into force 1 January 2012 when making their cropping plans.

Aimed at protecting water, the new requirements mean that growers will be unable to apply fertiliser within 2m of surface water and 10m for otrganic manures, except on land managed for breeding wader birds, or as species rich semi-natural grassland and under certain other restrictions.

Also, organic manure must also not be applied within 50m of a spring, well or borehole.

For more details, call the RPA’s Cross Compliance helpline on 0845 3451 302.

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