18 September 1998

Almost done – now north awaits repercussions

Apart from a few niggling

patches harvest is complete

in the south. Further north

grim weather persists, keeping

growers from potentially good

crops. Severe repercussions

are on the cards. farmers weekly journalists report


WHEAT harvesting was almost completely washed out last week.

Although combines started rolling again early this week delays are now hitting wheat quality hard.

"People are getting pretty depressed," says Terence Pardoe of Coastal Grain Marketing at Belford, Northumberland. "Only 40-50% of the wheat has been cut in the area and there are puddles or lakes in fields where we do not usually see water."

But new chemistry fungicides have kept crops growing for longer and first wheat quality has been quite good so far, he says. Second wheats are much more variable.

After a drizzly week and 3.8m (1.5in) of rain over Thursday, Friday and Saturday fields on Hetton Estate, Lowick, Northumberland, are waterlogged. "It is terrible, absolutely terrible; laid crops in fertiliser overlaps are growing in the ear," says manager Peter Guy.

"With only 14ha of wheat cut out of 291ha we need 10 days of fine weather. But I must say the strobilurins do seem to have kept the standing crop looking better than might have been expected, so far. But cutting at 25% will mean drying costs."

In N Yorks barometer farmer Keith Snowball is working day and night when possible to harvest his own wheat and contract crops. This week, for the first time, the three combines worked Monday and started Tuesday too. "It is no mean task keeping 17 farmers happy, and then we start drilling," he says.

"The sun is shining at the moment, that is a novelty in the north this year," says Anthony Hornshaw of Croft Farms, near Darlington. With his combine rolling on Monday he needed only two fine days to complete the wheat harvest.

So far first wheats have yielded 9.3-9.9t/ha (3.75-4t/acre) and the seconds about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre). But a lot had to be cut at over 20% and dried. "We have had a reasonable wheat harvest considering the summer."


BAROMETER farmer Eric Haggart of Bailielands, Perthshire, has found a bright spot in this years dismal harvest. His first field of Riband wheat yielded 9.25t/ha (3.75t/acre) dried.

"We have been catching the harvest between heavy showers and longer periods of rain. Moisture levels have been 21-28%, but the yield has been surprisingly high. It is the best crop of wheat I have grown for a very long time. I think the credit has to go to the strobilurins."

He sold 100t at a spot market price of £73/t last Friday.

But in Aberdeenshire, David Jack is not even contemplating wheat. He cut a little spring barley last weekend, but at 26% moisture is was turned down for malting by his co-op, Aberdeen Grain. Its managing director, Glyn Whitehead, reports that at the end of last week he had received only 500t of spring barley out of an expected 15,000t.

"The whole picture is very depressing at the moment and there are worried faces all around. My wheat and my Delibes barley are still 10 days away and there is no sign of harvest weather," says Mr Jack.

The Borders is faring no better. Berwick merchant David McCreath of McCreath, Simpson and Prentice, says the area is heading for a repeat of the 1985 disaster.

"It is terrible, a lot of crops are now sprouting and grain is coming in at 26% moisture. Drying costs are very high and fields are so wet that combines cannot operate."

That view is endorsed by Barclay Forrest who had two fields of wheat ready but sitting in water on Monday morning after another weekend of heavy rain.

In Moray and Inverness some decent weather at the end of last week means the spring barley harvest is drawing to a close, says Alan Whiteford. "It is the worst harvest since 1985 for yield and quality. The maltsters are recognising that and being slightly more tolerant about nitrogen and screening levels.

"A 2t/acre yield is considered good this year. Chariot has been the poorest performer in this area. There will be a shortage of top quality grain and some decent premiums for it. I cannot get finished soon enough. This is a quite forgettable harvest and I certainly dont look forward to doing the cash flows for next year," he adds.


DISASTER, depressed, dire, dreadful; that is how harvest is being described.

It has barely moved in the last fortnight, leaving less than half the wheat and little more of the spring barley cut. Promising early yields are disappearing with every downpour.

"This area will need disaster aid soon, and I am not exaggerating," says Charles Davidson of merchant North Down Grain. He estimates a fifth of wheat and spring barley is cut in County Down, and bar a few acres snatched at 25-30% moisture on Monday, nobody has moved for over a week. Crops are starting to sprout, bushel weights falling and spring barley ears are bent to the ground.

"Things are dire, really quite serious," echoes DANIs Alex McGarel. "In the south growers are normally drilling by now, but much of the land is not even cleared."

Kane review

Barometer grower Michael Kane, of Co Londonderry, had all but finished a fortnight ago. Only a niggling 6ha (15 acres) of Brigadier five miles from the farm was still to cut earlier this week. Better than expected wheat yields are thanks to Amistar (azoxystrobin) at flag and ear spray, he reckons. "A small area we missed at ear-spray was 1-1.5t/acre down." Barleys Regina and Jewel suffered from the lack of sunshine. At 6.9t/ha (2.8t/acre) they were short of the farm average and bushel weights poor at 62-63kg/hl. Winter OSR was a little disappointing at 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre). "But I accept last years 2t/acre was exceptional." Peas, grown for the first time since 1985, looked great in June. Then foliar disease and wet weather robbed yield potential, finishing up at just 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre). They may still be given a second chance next year.

More sun required… Although fit this flax at Dundridge Manor Farm, St Leonards, Tring, Herts, soon fouled contractor Philip Matthews (left) combine on Monday. With just 61ha of his contracted 2225ha left to cut Mr Matthews is on the home run at last. Also pictured are colleagues Charlie Harriman (right) and Mark Clifford.

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