Delayed Harvest Now Impacting on Autumn Sowing

Growers round Scotland reporting good yields but mixed quality and ground conditions holding back harvest and field work

Growers round the country are desperate for a sustained break in the weather to allow Scotland’s 2019 harvest to be completed and autumn sowings to get into full swing.

The stop/start harvest has seen harvest almost complete in areas like Berwickshire, while in some other areas, 50 percent of the crop is still standing and waiting for the combine.  The wet weather is now having an impact on the quality of the crops left with reports of sprouting and skinning in grains.

A knock-on impact of the wet weather is that, while oilseed rape is in the ground, plantings of winter wheat, barley and oats are now running late.

According to NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Chairman, Ian Sands, who farms at Balbeggie: “As far as the weather is concerned, it’s all or nothing next week.

“Here in Perthshire, harvest all but stopped with very little cut since last Sunday (8 September).  Yields have been good, and the quality of malting barley has been okay so far, but that may change.

“There have already been a number of rejections for malting, and any barley not cut by now could be at risk.   Similarly, a lot of oats are not good with some horror stories going around about oat crops still to be harvested and the weather still not picking up.

“Getting grain moved off farm remains a huge problem for a large majority of farmers, myself included.  I have been given many reasons for delays in haulage but the main one is the large areas of crops having to be harvested in very short weather windows.

“On the straw front, there are big crops of straw with quite a lot baled early in the harvest.  But because of the weather, some is lying unbaled and a lot of people have given up baling straw and switching on the choppers.

“Wet straw lying in fields is also holding back those wanting to get on with sowing next year’s crop as soon as their finished harvesting. Most OSR will be sown by now but very little winter barley or wheat been drilled yet in my area.

We really need a lift in the weather soon or what is left to cut will be of very poor marketable quality.”

Neil White, Berwickshire.
Harvest is as good as done in Berwickshire. I have spring beans to cut, as do others, but almost everything else is being tidied up this week and weekend. There has been lots of straw chopped lately as the demand has dropped, but some straw is still to bale and many bales still to lift.

Winter oilseed rape is still being sown almost a month behind last year’s dates, but seed beds aren't too bad so the potential for good crops going into the winter is still there.

Cropping plans won’t have changed drastically yet, because of the weather but maybe the fields and the rotation may have changed a little. Some wheat has been sown and the ground looks very good.

Harvest has had highs and lows - high yields, both very low and high moistures and both high and low prices Overall it has been good, but I have heard a recent offer for winter oats at £80/tonne.  Like sheep and cattle prices, that is not sustainable, but it is good cheap feed for livestock.

Quality issues with both winter and spring oats (sprouting) are a massive problem and if major oat buyers are keen to have Scottish oats in their products then a slight move on the zero tolerance for sprouting would help, even if it came with a price penalty.

Very slow movement of grain from farm is a problem, like last year.  I think it may become a regular occurrence and future funding to support storage buildings be good!  We all hope the weather is kind now and we can get the winter crops off to a start like last year.

Jamie Wyllie, East Lothian and Lanarkshire
We have still got about 90 acres to cut on our farm near Biggar. The spring barley we have cut there would have provided good yields if it had not been so flat. Wind and rain have battered a good chunk of it down.

Last year, we were finished harvest in the first week in September. I don’t know when we are going to get the last lot this year. We are having to cut at over 20% moisture content, and I am assuming it may go higher just to get it in the shed. The straw is almost as important as the grain so will be baled behind the combine in less than ideal conditions.

Wheat, OSR and winter barley yields at home in East Lothian were cut in good time and we have had mixed yields - some very good, some just average.

Alan Corrigall, Orkney
Harvest is progressing very slowly in Orkney because of the rain.  Approximately 50% of the barley area has been cut but only 10% of the straw baled.  A lot of the remaining area to cut is severely lodged and needing a few days sun and wind before the combines can tackle them.  Barley yields have been average, but many samples have very low specific weight (52Kg/hectolitre) and pre-sprouting.  The handful of fields which have been baled have produced very good yields of straw.

Ground conditions are very soft in places and greylag geese have devastated many crops, particularly the lodged ones.

Worryingly, no oats have been cut yet.

There is no winter cropping in Orkney, but late summer sown grass reseeds are struggling due to waterlogged ground conditions.

Euan Walker Munro, Angus
Around 25% of our harvest is still to cut.  We have wheat which has been ready for 2 weeks, so we are anticipating sprouting issues.  Yields seem okay which should make up for light bushel weights.  There are reports of spring oats still to cut.  We are now two weeks behind with sowing.

Jimmy Ireland, Ayrshire
Our own harvest is complete and came in at 12 percent moisture.  On the contracting side, we have five other farms done but still have six more to go.  We are getting approximately 25ml of rain every second night which is making ground conditions challenging. As for ploughing and sowing winter crops, that is not on the radar right now.

David Bryce, Stirlingshire
I got finished harvest and baled up on Friday (6 September) and I am glad to be finished.  Overall, I was happy with my yields considering the weather. A very stop/start harvest with ground conditions deteriorating daily since the middle of July.

Quality was good on both wheat and barley. Barley all went for malting with nitrogen's around 1.4 and no drying needed. Straw is still to be carted to the sheds when ground conditions allow.

As for drilling for next year, it will need a prolonged dry spell to even consider trying to plough on the Carse.

Round about Stirlingshire, there is still spring oats and some spring barley to harvest.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 129/19

< Article List


Report Abusive Comment

Comment Content:

Why it offends me (optional):

Have Your Say

No-one has commented on this article yet. Be the first to have your say...

New Comment


Total Pages:
Total Results:
Page Start:
Page Result #:

©NFU Scotland • All Rights Reserved • Web design by Big Red DigitalLog in


Contact Us




No Robots:

This form collects and sends the information supplied to NFU Scotland. You can read our privacy policy for full details on how we protect and manage your data.
  I consent to having NFU Scotland collect the above details.