Wet weather hampers havest progress in north

Harvest pace has slowed dramatically over the past week, with wet weather frustrating farmers and raising quality concerns.

Farmers in Scotland and the north of England had fared worst, and workloads were piling up as progress was delayed. “It’s the wettest spring and summer we’ve ever had,” said Adrian Ivory at Strathisla Farms, Meigle, Perthshire. He had recorded 100mm of rain every month since May. “We’ve already had over 100mm in August so far, and two fields of spring barley have been written off.”

In the borders, ground conditions were going to be the next concern, said Neil Thomson at Caverton Mill, Kelso. “It’s going to be difficult to travel on the land. Already people have been investing in heavy ropes to pull their combines out.”

Farmers had cut about 70% of their winter barley and half their oilseed rape in the north-east of England, said Gary Bright at GrainCo. The first few loads of wheat started to come into store on Monday, with group 1 and 2 varieties passing for milling at 80kg/hl, 280 Hagberg and 13-14% protein. “Early yield reports have been encouraging,” he said. “Most of the wheat around here has now been sprayed off, so it will be getting very busy if the weather dries out.”

Showers were also proving frustrating in Lincolnshire, where about 50% of the wheat was in the barn, said John Burnett, managing director of Woldgrain. “The weather is probably going to remain a bit hit-and-miss for the rest of the week.” Both winter and spring barleys were suffering with high nitrogen levels, but wheat quality was holding up well, despite the wet weather. “Bushelweights and Hagbergs still seem fine.”

However, in Suffolk, wheat was starting to sprout, with Oakley faring particularly badly, said Paul Agazarian at Atlas Fram. “We may have seen the best wheats of harvest already.”

Pea quality had been excellent, and yields were surprisingly good at up to and over 5t/ha (2t/acre), said Peter Busfield, director at Lincolnshire seed merchant Dunns. “There have been some very good green colours this year; I haven’t seen much bleaching after the rain.”

In the south-west, wheat yields were exceeding expectations, and quality so far was excellent, said Ian Eastwood at West Country Grain. “The bushelweights are fantastic, and the bulk of the milling wheat is safely in the bin. But it’s difficult to know what this drizzly rain is going to do to quality now.”