Good prospects washed away by heavy showers

20 August 1999

Good prospects washed away by heavy showers


HARVEST is becoming a nightmare for growers in the west of the region. Arguably the most promising wheat crop for years is being wrecked by regular downpours. In desperation some growers are combining at 25% moisture content.

"In Wilts and west Hants, the grounds wet, the straws wet, the grains wet and theres been a huge drop in Hagbergs," says Allied Grain trader Nick Matthews. "Nobody can afford to lose 10 days harvesting in the middle of August."

Soufflet Agricultures James Marshall reports Hagbergs on Soissons falling from 310 pre-rain, to 260 last week, and down to 185 this week. Just 10% of Wilts wheat is cleared, he estimates.

farmers weekly barometer grower John Chalcrafts progress is typical. It took all last week to get 8.9ha (22 acres) of Claire seed wheat, yielding 9.4t/ha (3.8t/acre) at 19-20% moisture. Now it is being blown "furiously" with ambient air to dry it.

"We also started a 10 acre field of Abbot, got around once and were rained off. Another attempt lasted only 10 minutes before the heavens opened again. And our 50 acres of Lexicon naked oats that we should have cut last week now look weather-beaten."

Littlecote Farm Partners seven combines got into their 2428ha (6000 acres) of wheat between Newbury, Berks, and Swindon, Wilts, on Aug 7. But in nine days, only 15-20% has been taken. Early cut first wheat Charger averaged just over 10t/ha (4.1t/acre), but second wheat Equinox was down to about 8.4t/ha (3.4t/acre) "And our Hagbergs have been dropping by 25 points a day, with Chargers down to 110 to 120," says Duncan Lee.

While most struggle with wheat, 183m (600ft) up on the North Downs near Lenham, Kent, Eric Baker still has 20.2ha (50 acres) of Gaelic winter barley to cut. Strobilurins made it even later than usual, and now Consort wheat is ready too, he says.


STEAMY conditions when the weather first broke have shattered wheat quality and upset export prospects.

Much is still to do on the heavy soils of Suffolk and Essex, but more is done on lighter ground.

"Harvest has turned into a catch-it-when-you-can operation. Some areas have 80% of wheat combined, others only 10%," says Ian Lowe of Essex-based Harlow Agricultural Merchants. Yields are generally good, but quality is increasingly questionable. "We are seeing sprouted grains in the recently harvested varieties. How badly this will affect Hagbergs is uncertain. Proteins are low at 11.5-13%."

Norfolk barometer grower Robert Salmons wheat is sprouting. "About 10% is in, but all I can do now is look at the rest of my sad crop," he says.

East Suffolk agronomist Edmund Brown echoes that. "Sprouting is the worst since at least 1987 so quality is shot." He estimates 75% of wheat in his area is still to cut, including 90% of grower Mike Porters crop at Walpole.

"Second wheat Charger did 11.5t/ha, which is not unusual around here, but the rest is still to do. Winter linseed is fit but it will have to wait until wheat is finished," says Mr Porter.

In north-east Norfolk half David Drakes Cooper spring barley is in the field. Sprouting has wrecked malting quality. "There is a lot of uncombined spring barley in the area. Most has germinated in the ear."

But some are still hopeful. "We have combined half our 2000 acres of wheat, and are now snatching it where we can at moistures up to 26%. There is some sprouting, but it is not too bad," says Cambs grower Robert Claydon. Optic spring barley is almost finished, above average at 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) and a good sample.

On the officially driest farm in the UK, at Wigboro Wick, Guy Smith reports a "truly biblical" 115mm (4.5in) of rain in the first half of August. Wheat was drawn out from July 23 to Aug 17 but now all 220ha (550 acres) is done "Yields have been 5-10% up on average."


ACROSS the region harvest has been at a standstill.

Some wheat was snatched last weekend at moistures of 20% and above as growers try to save sample quality.

"We are probably in the worst area for rain," says Robert Kerr of Glencore Grain. "The weather over the next two weeks will be crucial, as we are already seeing some sprouting. It is not a disaster yet, as yields are good and quality has a long way to drop, but the real question is how fast it will fall."

Midlands barometer grower Tony Wright has cut nothing in a week. "We are frustrated by the rain. Riband looks a bit more weathered now, there is evidence of some black tips but no problem with sprouting." If yield trends continue, they could be his highest ever.

That is echoed by ARCs northern region manager David Robinson. Even after a 20% allowance for plot effects, 34 Sept 29-drilled wheat variety trials averaged 12.2t/ha (4.9t/acre) on the north Lincs wold site. "It is the highest yield we have ever had." Chaucer and Equinox topped the chart at over 13t/ha (5.3t/acre).

But rain, and late drilled second wheats, threaten to spoil that bumper potential. Northants grower Ray Dalton recorded rain every day bar one this month.

"We managed to nibble a little bit of wheat last week with moisture ranging 18.9-23.0%. Yields were variable with 85cwt/acre for first wheat malacca, but just 56cwt/acre for second wheat Hereward."

In Glos, Philip Savery is pleased with yields and quality even after a 10-day hold-up. "The physical look of the grain is more washed out than before the rain, but results are holding up." First wheat malacca cut last Thursday yielded 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre) at 12.8% protein, 380 Hagberg and 79kg/hl.

Bucks grower Charlie Edgleys Malacca as a third wheat topped 10t/ha (4t/acre) at 71kg/hl and 19% moisture. Fourth wheat Charger cut before the rain yielded 9.4-10t/ha (3.8-4.0t/ha) at 77.8kg/hl.


RAIN is causing wide variations in crop performance, sample quality and harvesting progress.

"Most winter wheat is ready so people are going mad when conditions are right," says trader Tom Nellist of Hereford-based Farmwell. "Specific weights and Hagbergs were brilliant early on but are falling now. The first spring barley and peas have been cut and quality looks good."

North of Shrewsbury farmers weekly barometer grower Andrew Cooke had both his combines in action at the start of the week. "Riband second wheat is yielding about 7.2t/ha – not bad considering the level of take-all. About half our first wheats are ready. Well move into what looks like a very good crop of Consort if the rain holds off."

At Brewers Oak, in the east of the region, Frank Dakin is talking about the very good harvest that might have been after the worst August rain he can remember. He is half-way through harvesting 809ha (2000 acres) of winter wheat.

"Grain is sprouting in the ear with some shedding, bushel weights are as low as 64kg/hl and Hagbergs are shot."

Tony Thomas of Pancross Farm, Bonvilston, Glamorgan, is more upbeat, "stealing" harvest between the showers. Yields and quality are excellent, he says. "All the varieties are giving just under 4t/acre, specific weights are around 79kg/hl and Hagbergs are above average – between 280 and 350."

E-mailing in on the Harvest Hotline, Garnons Farm Partner-ship manager Peter Bawn says he is thrilled with 9.1t/ha (3.8t/acre) of Rialto wheat after sugar beet at Byford, Herefordshire.





&#8226 Hants/Wilts wheat only 10% in.

&#8226 Hagbergs dropping up to 25 points/day.

&#8226 Sprouting in ears reported.





&#8226 Growers snatching every combining opportunity.

&#8226 Widespread sprouting reported – wheat and S barley.

&#8226 Drying backlogs building.

&#8226 Big drying backlogs.





&#8226 Pre-rain wheat quality excellent.

&#8226 Quality now falling fast.

&#8226 Sprouting evident but not excessive – yet.

Spotlight on northern barometer

Recent rain had a mixed welcome at Croft Farms, Darlington. "It has been frustrating because we could not get on with wheat until Sunday," says Anthony Hornshaw. "But we have had less than further south and it was mostly a nice steady soaking making cultivations for oilseed rape seed-beds an awful lot easier."

Between Aug 7, when the weather broke, and Tuesday 44mm (1.7in ) of rain was recorded, including 19mm (0.7in) last Friday. But a good drying wind over the weekend saw 61ha (150 acres) of mostly second wheat cleared by Tuesday.

"The yields of 3-3.25t/acre are a bit down. They went off very quickly. I had hoped for 3.5t/acre. But some continuous wheat did over 4t and first crop Madrigal gave 4.85t which is exceptional, though we have done over 5t/acre before.

"There was no hint of sprouting and they were only just on the edge of being ripe. We started at 21% moisture. But I am not complacent as the weather forecast is not good." The value of an ear spray has become increasingly apparent, he adds.

120ha (300 acres) of the highest and later fields have received glyphosate to speed senescence. "We have not used it this way before but it is now so cheap it is probably worth it." It was also used instead of Reglone (diquat) to desiccate Antares linseed for the same reason.

Winter oilseed rape and barley yields, 3.9t/ha (32cwt/acre) and 8.2t/ha (3.3t/acre), respectively, turned out slightly better than average. £110/t for the rape in Nov/Dec is hardly attractive, especially after last years made £185, says Mr Hornshaw. "But all the 1.8N Regina barley will go to Glencore Grain next March at £80/t in the forlorn hope that it may earn a small malting premium for blending with low N samples."

Other main task for the regular team of Ralph Pape, Philip Stones and Ian Littlefair, joined this harvest by six others, has been to prepare land for an Aug 18 start to oilseed rape sowing.

"We go through twice with our Rollamec chisel plough/flat roll combination, sub-soil with the five-leg Simba and then power harrow before drilling with the Vaderstad. Its no cheaper than ploughing, but it allows the rain we have had to soak in to give us more reliable establishment."





&#8226 Cheshire wheat worst hit.

&#8226 Strobs blamed for uneven ripening.

&#8226 Severe shedding in remaining oats.


CROPS are now fully ripe across the region and would combine easily if weather permitted.

But very localised heavy downpours are hampering progress. Those without access to driers have been unable to combine at all.

Ted Bird of West Country Grain has already seen some sprouted wheat, but in general Hagbergs were good and average protein has improved to about 13.6%. Wessex Grains labs have noted poor germination in a few malting barley samples, possibly due to careless drying, and split grains in Fanfare.

farmers weekly barometer growers Matthew and Paul Dale near Falmouth tried their winter linseed again without success last week. but 12ha (30 acres) of Hunter and Drake winter wheat was snatched on Monday at 20%mc.

In south-east Cornwall, John Moss took 32ha (80 acres) of wheat last week, all over 20% mc. But most of the countys wheat has yet to be started. He has also cut spring barley and spring oats but is worried about the remaining 60% of his peas which are now flat.

ADASs Bill Butler has revised his estimate of wheat yields upwards after some clients reported over 10t/ha (4t/acre) crops. But after cleaning and drying oilseed rape yields have proved to be lower than expected, about 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre) rather than 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre).





&#8226 A snatch-it-when-you-can week.

&#8226 Crop quality holding up, but all fully ripe.

&#8226 Combining at high mc.


RAIN wiped out harvest in large parts of the north last week, but Northumberland faired better, forging ahead in contrast to last year.

Grain trader John Cockill of Argrain reports some wheat taken last Sunday in Yorks, and 30% of spring barley left. "Early wheats are a mixed bag of proteins – 9-12 % on the old scale. Some second wheats have very poor yields – down to 2t/acre or less." Pre-rain peas were excellent, but most are still to cut, he adds.

At Belford in Northumberland, Coastal Grains Terence Pardoe reckons 40% of spring barley is harvested. Yields are on a par with the winter crop at 6.2-7.4 t/ha (2.5-3t/acre) with nitrogen 1.17-2%. "Most are in the malting range and specific weights are fantastic." Winter oats are coming in with good specific weights.

Both wheat and spring barley is ready to go in Lancs, according to consultant Paul Sweeney. "But the weather isnt and thats putting barley malting quality at risk." He reports Abbot wheat after potatoes was yielding 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) at 17.5% before rain on Monday.

At Landgate Farm, near Wigan, Stuart Baldwin blames disappointing 4.9t/ha (2t/acre) winter barley on wet conditions on his heavy land. But straw is providing some consolation. "Its worth a lot of money compared to the corn." C1 wheat for home-saved seed is next, and standing so far.

Near Darlington, it has almost been too dry, says grower Michael Manners. "The last proper rain was about July 2." Malacca wheat has come in at 13% protein and Hagbergs over 400. However, take-all has cut second wheats to under 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) compared to over 9.9t/ha (4t/acre) for first wheats.





&#8226 Low second wheat yields.

&#8226 Good S barley yields and quality.

&#8226 North escaped worst of weather.


AFTER weeks of dry weather, good harvesting conditions were finally interrupted by heavy showers. Most winter barley is home and dry, and the first spring crops are good.

"It has gone reasonably smoothly so far," says Bryan Chalmers of Aberdeenshire-based farm consultants and managers Allathan Associates. Yields for winter barley and oilseed rape have been average, but growers were pleased by low moisture contents.

At Balgone Farms in East Lothian, farmers weekly barometer grower James Grant-Sutties winter barley is all in. "Good bushel weights of 65 kg/hl and 5% screenings surprised me because it was a patchy crop," he says. Spring barley was started on Monday, and wheat is a week off. But others in the area have cut wheat.

In the south, about 50% of spring barley has been cut. "The potential is there for a good spring barley crop," says David Bousie of Edinburgh-based grain merchants I M Cowrie & Co. "Yields are up at least 0.5t/acre on last year and screenings are an awful lot better. Nitrogen has been fairly low overall, with many samples between 1.2 and 1.45%. But it is early days yet."

At Duns in Berwickshire specific weight is good on Douglas Nivens Chariot, Optic and Golden Promise. "But nitrogen has varied between 1.45 and 1.9%," he says.

But Geordie Burnett-Stuart of Stuartfield in Aberdeenshire reckons spring barley is still weeks away. "Being right to the North Sea, we are about the latest in the country," he says. Winter barley is 80% in with a good sample. But much of his winter oilseed rape is lying wet in the field.





&#8226 S barley looking promising.

&#8226 A start made on winter wheat.

&#8226 First rain interrupted week.


GROWERS faced a forecast of more unsettled weather this week, but it is not panic stations just yet. Ground conditions are beginning to suffer but good yields are helping ease the frustration.

Belfast-based DANI senior crops advisor Emerson McDowell says his greatest concern is the eruption of fusarium and ear blight on spring barley in the north-west – diseases more usually seen on wheat.

"Weather-wise we are still a long way off being as bad as last year but this fusarium problem is serious. In many fields almost a quarter of the ear is affected."

But the crop looks better further south. farmers weekly barometer grower Graham Furey managed to snatch about 6.5ha (16 acres) of spring barley at Killyleagh, despite green straw in low-lying hollows. "It yielded 3t/acre – Ive never had that from spring barley before. It was March-sown Delibes following potatoes," he says.

John Gilliland, Brook Hall Estate, Co Londonderry, fears last years harvest frustrations have returned. "I didnt think we could have two such troubled harvests back to back but its beginning to look that way."

With 200ha (500 acres) of crops to harvest in the next three weeks he needs a long spell of settled weather. " We have only harvested 25% of our winter barley." Half was November-drilled and yield has averaged 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre), about 10% down on the five-year average. "Im hoping the best yields are still to come."

Others in Co Londonderry are equally frustrated with water standing in tramlines, and spring barley fit before winter barley is cut. &#42





&#8226 Weather worries mounting.

&#8226 North and west worst hit.

&#8226 Autumn coming early – soil temps down 2C in Aug.

Protein reminder

From Sept 1, millers will declare wheat protein on a dry matter basis, calculated from the Dumas reference method. That replaces protein declarations at 14% moisture, calculated from the Kjeldahl reference method. While the numbers are higher on the new scale, no change in the actual protein content of the wheat required is involved. Cargills Andrew Bury suggests growers and merchants get used to using the new figures. "We have been encouraging everybody to work on a dry matter basis from the start of new crop." For further information contact nabim (0207-493 2521)

Old 14%DM New 0%DM

(Kjeldahl) (Dumas)

9.0 10.7

9.5 11.3

10.0 11.9

11.0 13.0

12.0 14.2

See more