Wheat harvest under way in north

Wheat harvest was under way in parts of the midlands and northern England while yields of all crops pointed to a much more variable harvest than in previous years.

After such a dry growing season, crops on heavy and chalk ground appear to be performing the best, while those on light and brashy soils have suffered badly from drought. Frustratingly, many farmers are now struggling to get combining due to showers.

In Lincolnshire, Alan Hind was managing to cut oilseed rape at Elm Tree Farm, despite threatening black clouds. “We subsoiled in our Excel oilseed rape and the yields are massive,” he said. So far it had averaged 4.6t/ha – the same as last year’s crop, at just under 11% moisture. However, winter barley yields were about 1.2t/ha below average, and wheat yields were likely to be down by a similar amount, he said.

Winter barley harvest was about 90% complete in East Anglia, with oilseed rape around 70% done, according to Trevor Gates, regional manager at Gleadell. Yields for both crops were slightly below average, with winter barley at about 5-5.5t/ha and rapeseed 3.5-4.25t/ha. “Winter barley quality is fine, with low screening levels, and nitrogen all within a usable band for malting.”

In Nottinghamshire, Chris Cockayne was combining winter wheat at Top Brackendale Farm, as oilseed rape was not yet ready. “We tried some spring barley, but that wasn’t ripe either.” The Gallant wheat had just died off and yielded poorly, although quality was excellent, with protein at over 13% and a bushelweight of 77-78kg/hl.

Stewart Sinclair, independent agronomist with Hampshire Arable Systems, said early wheat yields were unlikely to be the best. “There will be better to come. But yields are all over the place – there are going to be a lot of low yielding fields, between 4.9t/ha and 7.4t/ha, while others are near-record.”

Oilseed rape yields were generally pleasing, including DK Cabernet, which had been affected by late frosts and pollen beetle earlier in the year. “I have one crop which was badly affected and it has still done 4t/ha.” But in the middle of the country, agronomist Nick Brown said 60-70% of DK Cabernet still looked poor. “I am concerned that these crops aren’t going to yield.”

• Keep up-to-date with this year’s harvest with our Harvest Highlights. Or take part in the discussion on high wheat prices in our forum.