Farmers still have 35-40% of their wheat to cut in the UK, and severe weather warnings for Friday (5 September) and the weekend look set to prolong harvest even further.
The dullest August on record, combined with the fifth wettest summer ever, had conspired to make this year’s campaign one of the most difficult in recent memory.
The South-West and North had been worst affected, with many growers in the East considerably better off.
“The biggest issue is that the farmers can’t dry what they’ve got in the sheds,” said Stuart Shand, director of Gleadell Agriculture. “The industry has ground to a halt.”
Intakes were slow and very little dry wheat was coming to the market, to the extent that many buyers were paying a premium for dry grain which was immediately available, he added.
“It is a logistical nightmare. It is also a shame that prices didn’t hold up because with the extra yields people were going to get it would have been a fantastic harvest.”
Wessex Grain’s stores were under tremendous pressure due to the large amounts of wet grain, said director Owen Cligg. “It’s been a real struggle for farmers to cut anything dry.”
Most grain was coming in at 19% moisture, which would cost more than £10/t to dry, with some higher moisture loads costing around £20/t.
“We are having a tanker load of fuel every other day at the moment.”
Devon and Cornwall
Some farmers in Devon and Cornwall had scarcely started harvest due to the appalling weather, and Hagbergs for Group 3 and 4 wheat had fallen below 100, although Group 1 milling varieties were still holding above 200 in general.
“There are some farmers who can’t get machinery into the fields because it is so wet,” said Mr Cligg.
“We haven’t had a weather window since July to actually get on and do something – it’s probably the worst harvest for 20 years.”
But where crops had been gathered yields had been well above average, and quality was reasonable.
Mr Shand said the malting barley harvest was “the best ever, in terms of yield and quality”. Usually, 55% of the winter barley crop failed to make malting quality, and yields averaged 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre). This year, 95% had passed, at average yields well over 7t/ha (2.8t/acre).
Spring barley was a similar success, with 90% passing for malting so far, at yields of 7t/ha (2.8t/acre), compared with a 60-65% average pass rate at 5.2t/ha (2.1t/acre).
The Met Office was forecasting heavy rain across England and Wales on Friday and Saturday, with up to 50mm likely to fall in some areas.
- To my mind it’s almost as bad as 1985, a harvest etched forever in my memory for all the wrong reasons – Andrew Blake, senior arable reporter. Read more on Is this the most frustrating harvest for 50 years?
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Duxford winter wheat is an HGCA Recommended List 2008/09 variety with very high
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