Marked split shows in regional fortunes

21 August 1998

Marked split shows in regional fortunes

Good wheat results are

welcome in the south and

east. But growers elsewhere

are facing very mixed

fortunes. Weather-hit

harvesting is now

reminiscent of the 1985

disaster for those in the

north and west. FWs arable

team reports on progress


WITH some growers hoping to finish wheats by today (Friday), results are better than expected, but second wheats are generally poor.

After disappointing winter barley and oilseed rape, expectations for wheat were little better, says Harlow Agricultural Merchants Ian Low. "But in most cases growers are pleasantly surprised, though there is huge variability." Some over-lush flat crops and those hit by take-all are doing only 4.9t/ha (2t/acre) and there are quality niggles, he notes.

Most Group 1 breadmakers are useable, albeit on a sliding scale, adds HAMs Stuart Attridge. But some group 2 Rialto has ergot, low specific weight and Hagbergs down to 180, he says.

Fengrains Chris Barnes echoes those Rialto views. "Second wheats are well down, but first wheats on silt have good yield and quality." Most Group 1 types are meeting full breadmaking spec. Consort is markedly outyielding Riband, he says.

Bucking the trend with Rialto at 80kg/hl is Scott Norris, chairman of Herts & Essex Grain Growers. "The wheats are better than we thought, with specific weight the main surprise." First crop Rialto at Cow Farm, Doddinghurst did much as last year at 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre). But second crops will be down 10%, he says.

"We started harvest badly but it is getting better all the time," says Robert Law of Thrift Farm, Royston, Cambs, who has avoided second wheats since 1989. Light land Consort, favoured by the wet season, did 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre) at 78-79kg/hl. "That is well ahead of last years 7.3-7.5t/ha average." Gerald oats at 7.2t/ha (2.9t/acre) and 52kg/hl and easy to combine first-time Ramrod peas at 4.5t/ha (1.8t/acre) have also pleased.

"Second wheat Hussar was dreadful. It didnt make 3t/acre," says barometer grower David Pettitt. He is much happier with first crop Consort and Equinox at West Hall Farm, Rickinghall. "We are knocking at 4t/acre, not far away from last year."


TWO weeks of fine weather have transformed the harvest in the south.

Most growers made good progress in wheat last week, often with pleasing quality results. But yields are generally 10-15% down on last year. Many lower lying farms have now finished their wheat campaign.

Apart from slightly lower proteins than last year and a few light crops below 5t/ha (2t/acre) Soissons has performed remarkably well, says Bartholomews of Chichester in West Sussex. Typical performance is 10.5-10.75% protein and 78kg/hl specific weight. Early Hagbergs were about 250 but later ones have been borderline, says grain trader Richard Wright. Wheat on lowland farms appears to have fared best. Tim Piper was over a third through his crops near Appledore, Kent, earlier this week. Most of the crop stood despite a ferocious storm in early August that produced 62mm (2.5in) of rain in three hours.

Beaufort did 8.9-10.5t/ha (4-4.25t/acre) at 77.5kg/hl, a bit better than last year. Class I and II varieties also did well, Malacca managing 8.6t/ha (3.6t/acre) and Abbot and Rialto about 9.9t/ha (4t/acre), all at about 80kg/hl.

Paul Pickvances Soissons at Lavant, near Chichester, West Sussex, yielded 7.8t/ha (3.2t/acre) at 80kg/hl, 9.5% protein and 270 Hagberg, little different to last year. Charger was coming off at well over Soissons yield.

On the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire Robert Lawtons arable manager, Christopher Grassam, reports Reaper second wheat yielding 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) at 75kg/hl. Next to harvest was Raleigh first wheat with 8.5t/ha (3.4t/acre). Both results are similar to 1997.

The first wheat cut by barometer grower Patrick Godwin at Billingshurst, West Sussex, was his worst. Reaper did 8.2t/ha (3.3t/acre), followed by Brigadier at 9.1t/ha (3.7t/acre) and Consort at 8.9t/ha (3.6t/acre), both up on last year.

Harvest finished early this week, with Eiffel peas. They all stood but were not expected to exceed 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre).

Charles Roberts of Grain Harvesters, Wingham, East Kent, says wheats are better than expected while peas are the worst for years.


GOOD progress has been made in wheats though many crops were barely fit.

Quality and yields continue to be very variable.

In east Dorset, George Hosford has finished winter wheats. Average yield was at least 1.2 t/ha (0.5t/acre) down on recent years.

Jim Atkins of Wessex Grain on the Somerset/Dorset border reckons over half the wheat was cut by Monday. Yields were down by anything from 0.6t/ha (0.25t/acre) to 5t/ha (2t/acre). Worst affected were crops on heavy land.

Soissons is crop of the year, with good proteins and good specific weights. Spark has also done well. Hereward is reasonable but Abbot and Malacca are disappointing.

In Somerset Archie Montgomery was three-quarters through his wheats. Except for one good field of Hereward. Fusarium has hit hard, despite expensive earwashes. Grain sizes varied greatly, leading to very mixed samples. To date yield is down 20% at about 7.5t/ha (3t/acre).

Ted Bird of Cannington Grain, Somerset, says well over half the wheat was cut by Monday but quality was still not good. There were a lot of green grains in many samples, the result of regrowth at the sides of tramlines after using wide wheels for spraying when the land was wet.

Grain was coming off the combine very warm and damp. He advised low-volume ventilation to keep airways open for when drier air is available for drying. Lighter soils are yielding better than the heavies this year. "I am told it is because on the heavy soils the roots were starved of oxygen at a critical time."

In south Devon, barometer grower Stewart Hayllor had three days combining left to finish his wheat. Apart from one lodged field at just under 7.5t/ha (3t/acre), all the wheat to date has yielded 8.1-9t/ha (3.25-3.6 t/acre) and specific weights were good at 76-78kg/hl.


BOTH yield and quality are improving as the wheat harvest gathers pace.

Almost half the wheat had been cut in the south by Monday and a quarter in Notts and Lincs, estimates Dalgetys Gary Hutchings. Quality problems are now rare apart from variable protein content in the north.

Yields are good, with first wheats typically yielding 20% above second wheats. Many feed wheats are reaching 10t/ha (4t/acre) with 74-76kg/hl bushel weights. One crop of Equinox reputedly touched 12.4t/ha (5t/acre). Class 1 and 2 wheats are all above specification, says Mr Hutchings.

Barometer grower Steven McKendrick is one-third of the way through his wheat at Burton on Trent, Staffs.

Poorer land was taken first, with Consort and Brigadier averaging 8.26t/ha (3.34t/acre). "That is good, because we had budgeted for 8t/ha. Brigadier has done best at 8.9t and a 75kg/hl bushel weight."

He has also cut a fungicide trial, comparing strobilurin with triazole chemistry. "When all the calculations were done, we got an extra £11.86/acre profit from the strobilurin chemistry."

Cargills grain marketing manager, Andy Bury, reckons first wheats are doing better than expected. "Yields are averaging 8.5-9t/ha, with bushel weights over 76kg/hl and Hagbergs around. That has been a nice surprise."

But second wheats have been disappointing. "We have heard of yields as low as 5t/ha, mainly due to disease pressure."

Equinox, Consort and Riband have all performed well in a difficult year, he adds. "But Rialto has been extremely variable. It has yielded well, but samples contain a lot of ergot and Hagbergs are low."

He puts harvesting delays down to the use of strobilurins. "The straw is too green and growers are being held up."


SPRING barley, oats, and wheat are proving a relief after disappointing winter barley and rape, but merchants in the region are reporting unusually slow trade.

"It is slow progress. Nothing much was cut last weekend, and farmers are just not in a hurry to sell," reports Julian Walker, of Shrewsbury-based Shropshire Grain. Wheat quality is promising so far, and the main spring malting barleys look good, too, he says.

North of Shrewsbury, Boughey Estates farm manager Ken Onions is pleased with Optic. "It has been tremendous. Fantastic quality and 3t/acre." That is 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) up on the farm average, with 1.6% nitrogen and 5% screenings off the combine. Abbot wheat at 9.1t/ha (3.7t/acre) is also up on the farm average.

Near Bridgenorth, Simon Pennington is similarly pleased with early wheats. "Rialto is a good sample, and weighing well. Yield is about 3t/acre so far." Both late-drilled triticale and Gerald oats did 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) off light land, and triticale looks just like wheat, he notes.

In Worcestershire, at Lincombe Farms, near Stourport, Tony Symondss first and second wheats are doing 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre) and 6.9t/ha (2.8t/acre), respectively, about average for the farm. Disappointing winter barley yields mean it will be dropped for next year.

Regina barley at a shade under 5t/ha (2t/acre) has barely covered growing costs for Andrew Whiteman of Bucknell, south Shropshire. But oats have done much better. "They have gone over 4t/acre in places, and the average must be near that."

Across the border into Powys, David Prices oats at Evenjobb yielded about 7t/ha (2.8t/acre), and a field of Charger wheat snatched at the weekend did 8t/ha (3.2t/acre), both about average for the farm. But again winter barley was a big disappointment. "Is it worth it; one field did less than 1.0t/acre?"


FARMS in the south of the region have generally completed winter barley and oilseed rape and are moving into spring barley and wheat.

But despite better weather in the past week the picture remains challenging in Northumberland and the Borders.

On-off harvesting meant 20% of rape was still uncut on Monday in Northumberland, reports Terence Pardoe of Coastal Grain Marketing. "The winter barleys have bad screenings, although the feed varieties have fared better than Regina and Melanie. But only half the crop will make intervention standard," he says. Robin Gordon of Allied Grain, Berwick, reckons only 25% will reach intervention standard.

Early spring barley is showing better quality, although yield is light. "Nitrogens are 1.4-1.6, with only one at 1.8," notes Mr Pardoe.

Across the Pennines and further south Miles Silcock of Watson House Farm, Halsall, Southport, had 25% of his wheat cut by Tuesday. Tramline trials show Hussar gave 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) more after two strobilurins than two triazoles.

Winter barley yields on the heavy blue clay disappointed. That was in part due to direct drilling which dropped yield from 7.4t/ha (2.75t/acre) after the plough to 4.3t/ha (1.75t/acre). The only consolation is a specific weight of 67kg/hl.

Oilseed rape was direct drilled, but suffered from April snow and a double whammy at harvest. Half was swathed and had too much rain while the desiccated half lost yield to the wind. The net result was under 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre).

Peter Smith of Barnborough Grange Farm, near Doncaster, is about a quarter of the way through his wheat and reports yields much better than last year. Hectolitre weight looks good, too.

After some worry about take-all in second and third wheats there is relief to first cuts have come in at over 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) and 74kg/hl specific weight. "Extra moisture this year may have avoided a disaster," comments Hull-based consultant Andrew Beeney.


IT has been another week of trying harvest between a mix of showers and more persistent rain.

A combination of low yields, poor quality, high costs, and low prices will drive many farmers out of winter barley, says barometer grower Eric Haggart from Perthshire.

"I know a lot of farmers in this area who will be studying the margin, if there is one, on their winter barley and I know some who have already decided against the crop for next year in favour of set-aside or linseed or flax," he says.

But his own variety, Fanfare yielded surprisingly well. "Having reduced my yield expectation last week, we have now had enough away to revise upwards again. It wont do 3t/acre but it will not be far short. The bushel weight is 71kg."

Mr Haggart also reports that local merchant Glencore is producing contracts for Fanfare for next year with the brewing market in mind. "It may be enough to keep us in the crop."

Another bright spot has been Pronto oilseed rape which yielded 4.3t/ha (35cwt/acre) compared with 3t/ha (25cwt/acre) for Synergy. But high drying costs are the order of the day. The rape has been coming off at up to 17% moisture and he combined barley one day at 22%. Spring barley is still about a week away.

It will be longer than that before David Jack is able to combine spring barley in Aberdeenshire. "It is still green and I think it will be into September before we can cut it. Last year we started on August 16 and this time we havent even finished our winter barley."


RAIN is causing growing concern, especially in the north-west, says DANIs Emerson McDowell: "There is a lot of winter rape still left to cut."

Fortunately many growers used Roundup (glyphosate) rather than Reglone (diquat) as desiccant, which should reduce pod shatter losses caused by the delay, he says. The difficult conditions (see News) are also casting a shadow over spring peas, a relatively new break for the region. Forty growers opted for them this year after two successful commercial crops last season. "Crops were looking excellent until three to four weeks ago. Now the lower pods are saturated. They are not lost yet, but we really need good weather," says Mr McDowell.

No spring barley has yet been cut. Mr McDowell estimates yields of the winter crop, still only 80% done, are 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) down on last year. Colleague Alex McGarel says specific weights are only 55-60kg/hl. "Quality is atrocious."

John Best managed only 4.2t/ha (1.7t/acre) from Regina winter barley at Acton House Farm, Poyntzpass, Co Armagh. "It was a disaster. We normally expect 2.25-2.5t/acre." Pronto hybrid rape, replacing Synergy and delivering about 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre), partly offsets his gloom.

Barometer farmer Michael Kane has had to divert more flat wheat to whole-crop silage, bringing the total to 18ha (45 acres).

With the help of two neighbours combines he is almost through winter barley and two-thirds into Pronto and Synergy winter rape. "The barley quality is still reasonable. I am hopeful for 63kg/hl." &#42

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