Mixed picture for harvest across Scotland

Adverse weather coupled with poor returns causing wider troubles

It is a mixed picture at present for Scotland’s harvest, with many areas running two weeks later than normal because of the particularly cold and wet summer.

NFU Scotland has been speaking to its members across the country to gather a picture of how farmers have been coping.

And with wider troubles of poor returns and higher input costs, a good spell of weather is needed to help get the sector back on track.

Following feedback from NFU Scotland members, all areas are suffering in some shape or form.

In Perthshire many have yet to start spring barley harvest, with yields of winter barley and oilseed rape (OSR) below average. For farmers in Ayrshire and Forth and Clyde, the situation is mainly the same, with low yields, and harvest running well behind schedule.

For Lothian and Borders, a slow harvest and colder temperatures has seen crops struggle.  For some, the sowing of OSR has gone well, but the potential for insect damage remains.

In the North East, farmers have been seeing average yields, with wet weather, and many fields swamped while for some farmers in the Highlands, it has been the latest start they have had for spring barley cutting, and are keeping their fingers crossed for a good spell of weather.

It is a bleak picture for Caithness and Orkney, as harvest is a long way off, with low yields expected.

Ian Sands, NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Chairman, said: “Many regions are running two weeks later with their harvest than this time last year, with yields expected to be lower than normal.

“The adverse weather we have seen in recent months, coupled with the poor returns and high input costs, really threaten the viability of the cereal sector in Scotland. With such a wet summer and now moving into autumn, many will also be facing additional drying costs in a year when prices are very disappointing.

“At the same time, the arable sector is Scotland has carried virtually all the burden of meeting the ‘greening’ element of the new CAP.  Gold plating by the Scottish Government around greening rules has impacted on our competitiveness.

“Fingers crossed but we desperately need a dry couple of weeks now to allow us to get the Scottish harvest back on track.”

NFU Scotland is currently carrying out its annual arable survey, coordinated by Crops Policy Manager Peter Loggie.

Mr Loggie commented: “A lot of what we have so far is based on anecdotal evidence and provides a mixed picture across Scotland. In order to build evidence based on this we are currently running our Combinable Crops Survey 2015 which will help to form an independent harvest estimate for the Scottish Government.

“We ask all growers to participate, and a form can be obtained by emailing or an electronic survey is available at: ”


Notes to Editors
•    A summary from Gavin Dick, Manager for Scotland for AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds is attached which covers Scotland as a whole.
•    A round-up for the regions from NFU Scotland members is as follows:

East Central region

Ian Sands, Balbeggie, Perthshire
Harvest has hardly started here.  Winter barley is more or less all cut and we have moved on to the oilseed rape but it is slow at coming ready.  The weather is very unsettled, making it hard work.  For us, spring barley is probably about 10 days away with a few exceptions on lighter land.  That makes the spring barley harvest very late for us with the added complication that wheat is going to be ready at the same time.  That is going to put a lot of pressure on combines and, if the weather doesn't settle, it will be a tough time ahead.

John McLaren, Crieff, Perthshire
Spring barley is not ready yet and harvest looks set to be 10 to 12 days late. Yields are looking below average. Potatoes crops seem to be variable – some are okay but others have been very slow to bulk up.
Peter Thomson, Blairgowrie, Perthshire: For cherries and blueberries, the harvest has barely begun. Yields look okay in blueberries, but time will tell. Cherries yields are high where spring frost was avoided.
For the rest of the soft fruit, it has been a reasonable season, with some quality problems in the wet weather, and a late start, but average yields and okay prices.

Peter Grewar, Perthshire, Angus and Highland
Ware potatoes in Perth and Angus are at least 16 days behind last year and harvest will be pushed as late as growers dare with the risk of frosts and rain in October.
Seed potatoes in the Black Isle and Easter Ross are maybe a week behind but with less tuber numbers, the crops have come to size in quicker time so the period when crops have been burnt off seems more normal.
The Winter Barley is all in now across the Black Isle, Perth and Angus, and yields look normal or slightly better than normal. Winter OSR harvest, however, is very protracted with 25 percent still to cut and some in Angus won’t be ready for a week yet.
Concerto spring Barley started this week – compare that with this time last year when we had already finished! There is no indication of quality yet but low nitrogen is expected.
In short, September will be the harvest month for cereals and seed spuds, October will be the harvest month for ware spuds.

Forth & Clyde region

Ian Craig, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire
In Renfrewshire to date we have had 48.5 inches or 1234mm of rain, which is the wettest year ever so far!!! Potatoes are tending to turn yellow and die off due to waterlogging and are no great size.  Winter barley yields were disappointing at around 2 tonnes per acre.   Even more disappointing is the price!! Wheat is ready to combine but the grain not well filled.
Spring barley is still about 3 weeks away from harvest due to lack of sunshine.

William Wilson, Torrance, Glasgow
I am just cutting OSR now. Spring OSR yields have been disappointing as the crop had looked good all year.  Spring barley harvest is still around two weeks away but even now the yield prospects don’t look good.  The wheat crop looks better but again harvest is still two weeks away and, with the wet summer, it could be October before we get to the oats.

Lothian & Borders

Neil White, Duns, Berwickshire
Harvest here is progressing slowly. Winter barley is all cut and yield and quality has been good. OSR is mostly done now in Berwickshire with yields good and I haven’t heard much about oil content.
A few fields of wheat are cut and a small number of spring barley but not enough to base a trend. Lots more drying has been required as inclement weather has kept the moisture up.  
Sowing of rape has gone well with favourable conditions, moisture and heat helping quick germination and we wait to see if we can avoid insect damage. I finished cereal harvest on 26 August in 2014 but at present I am only a quarter of the way through this year’s so it is going to be a very busy spell ahead with everything happening at once and good weather required. The work has been sporadic as we have dashed in and out between showers and before heavy rain forecasted but luckily not always arriving. We need to remember that while other sectors are grabbing the headlines, we are all in this together and the cereal sector problems aren’t that different from the dairy sectors. Current prices are £93 per tonne for feed barley; £114 per tonne for wheat and £230 per tonne for OSR - these figures do not add up to profitable farming.

James Logan, East Lothian
From East Lothian, harvest is running 10 days later than normal.  Yields and quality have been good and we should, hopefully, have a busy week this week. Prices and movement are a major problem and we are seeing a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in price in some cases.  Potatoes are also two weeks behind.  Crops look good but limited by tuber numbers and cold temperatures. Prices are more buoyant which will hopefully carry on all season.

Tracy McCullagh, East Lothian
We grow cereals, veg and potatoes and would say overall the cool summer has resulted in slow growth and ripening of crops. Our potato and cereal harvest is not long underway. Quality is generally looking good but early indications are yields are okay but nothing outstanding, with lower than expected yields and reduced availability in some cases.

North East region

Andrew Moir, Laurencekirk
We finished winter barley about two weeks behind normal, yields were average with quality variable depending on variety. Straw has been baled and is of mostly good quality.  
We did chop all areas where the combine was traveling to, to negate the need to turn straw.
We had a few sinking moments with the combine but we didn’t get stuck, with trailers using the tramlines at all times to prevent too much damage to fields. Some OSR has been sown in the area but has been a fight, many choosing to give up the unequal struggle but the 3 crop rule making it a necessity for most. The frustration is that very little has been done this past fortnight - gorgeous days followed by incessant precipitation - making it impossible to even get some ploughing done.
Some tattie fields have had shaws removed but continue to sit in water, so quality could be an issue.  The tattie harvest is still about three weeks off and yields are not expected to be any more than average at best.
Some spring barley has been cut in the Montrose area with good quality being reported but only average yields.
Whole crop for stock has been won in-between the rain but fields have taken more than a beating and will need a decent spell and repair work before next crop is thought about.
All crops now will be ready about the same time, so combines and seed drills will be working 24/7 as soon as we get more than two days of nice weather.

Peter Macdonald, Banffshire
Winter barley is almost all cut along Moray coastal area, with yields good at 3.5 tonnes per acre or more but with mixed weather there is some straw still to be baled. Winter OSR has been cut locally over the weekend, with reports of yields approaching two tonnes per acre. A start to spring barley has been made on some early farms. At home, we are ready to start on malting barley once the weather clears up – the crops look promising and I hope quality holds up over this inclement period.

Stuart Durno, Ellon
Aberdeenshire has been very wet.  We cannot get in to bale straw to sow OSR and the OSR that has been sown, can’t be rolled – in short, the slugs are having a great time!  Winter barley yields came in at 3.7 tonnes per acre but the OSR harvest has hardly started.  All in all, farmers are getting a bit fed up of the job.


Jim Whiteford, Easter Ross
Winter Barley and oilseed rape have been harvested at low moisture and yielded well although I haven’t put them over weighbridge yet for accurate figures.  We have just started to cut spring barley - our latest start ever. Crops look very good.
Weather has been very broken with mostly rain and the odd exceptional day. Ground conditions are not good. This week will see a lot of spring barley ready to harvest so we are hoping for a good spell of dry sunny weather.


Kenny Slater, Group Secretary, Kirkwall
It isn’t hard to summarise harvest in Orkney - there’s been none and, sadly, we are a long way from even starting. Crops generally looking very poor, many probably unviable to harvest and will be ensiled instead.

Ayrshire region

Ayrshire Regional Vice-Chairman Andrew Glover, Hall of Barnweil, Craigie:
On the back of high seed and fertiliser costs to establish the 2015 cereal crops, and the persistently poor weather, cereal growers are facing unsustainable prices, with dried barley ex farm at only £95 per tonne against a cost of production which is well in excess of this figure. With falling oils prices, it is incomprehensible that fertiliser costs remain so high. Looking forward, if the weather in September for harvesting the spring planted crops continues in the same vain as the last couple of months, with rain and lack of sunshine, then the consequences for cereal growers in these parts will be catastrophic.”


For more information contact or 0131 472 4108.

Date Published:

News Article No.: 163/15

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