29 September 1997


RAIN has checked progress with an estimated 15% of wheats in places still uncut by midweek. Early signs are that beans are performing well, though not as well as in the east. Little spring linseed has yet been cut.

Showers and heavier rain over the weekend left pockets of wheat unharvested on Salisbury Plain, in the Cotswolds and even in lower lying areas such as Pewsey Vale, reports Nick Oakhill of Wilts-based Allied Grain. "I am amazed at how much wheat there is still to be harvested."

Early wheat yield from thin high ground at Faccombe Estates, near Andover, Hants is depressing, reports Julian Harbottle. "Our Soissons at about 2.2t/acre is three-quarters to a ton down on last year. But it went in very late after grass." Quality is as yet untested. "But the grain looks fine.

By midweek he still had nearly 70% of the 280ha (700 acre) wheat crop to cut as well as 40ha (100 acres) of beans. May rainfall suited Grafila peas which averaged 4.4t/ha (1.8t/acre). "Thats 0.75t/acre better than last year."

Former Farmer of the Year Robert Lawton describes 1997 at North Farm, Aldbourne, Wilts as a "cliff-hanger". "It was a potential disaster pulled out of the fire by three weeks dry harvest. We could have been looking at another 1985."

Most striking feature is the difference in performance between heavy and light land crops, he says. "Wheat on our light chalk suffered quite badly with specific weights 5-8kg/hl lower than last year."

Barometer grower Bill Harbours combine came to a halt, after 20mm (0.8in) of rain at the weekend, with only 23ha (58 acres) of wheat, and 24ha (60 acres) of still-green field beans, to cut. Specific weights are definitely lower than last year, Riband ranging from 71 to 75kg/hl, he reports.

After a drying-free run, with off-combine wheat down to 11% moisture, the prospect of having to move 300t of stored grain to gain access to the drying floor does not appeal, he says.

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