Scotland’s Stop/Start Harvest Sees Wide Range in Yields and Quality According to NFUS Survey

Some areas struggling to finish combining and wet weather now holding back autumn plantings.

Responses to NFU Scotland’s annual harvest survey from around the country highlight the impact that weather has had on Scottish crops. 

Exactly 130 growers responded to the survey and information on yields has been sent to SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) as it collects data from stakeholders to produce crop estimates for Scotland.

Average yields recorded by respondents to the NFUS harvest survey were: Spring barley, 5.7 tonnes per hectare (t/ha); Winter wheat, 9.5 t/ha; Winter oats, 7.4 t/ha; Spring oats, 6.3 t/ha; oilseed rape, 3.9 t/ha and rye, 7.8 t/ha.

Comments provided by respondents presented a very mixed picture from around Scotland with some describing their harvest as brilliant, others describing it as average and others finding it very challenging.  Wet weather in recent weeks means that some areas, including parts of the North East and the Borders, have still to complete their harvest and are desperate for a dry spell.  

And looking to the 2024 harvest, oilseed rape crops have been sown in good time and in good conditions, but many growers are now frustrated that winter barley and winter wheat sowing are being held back by the wet conditions as we head into autumn.

NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Chair, Willie Thomson, who farms near Longniddry in East Lothian said: “One trend clearly apparent from the results of the survey is how much better winter crops have fared this harvest when compared to spring sown crops.

“Winter crops sown in Autumn 2022 came through into the spring in good condition and were well established and more resistant to the weather challenges that this year has brought.  By comparison, spring crops have proven to be less resilient and for some around the country, we still desperately need a window in the weather for them to complete harvest.

“The hot dry summer followed by a wet autumn has been far from ideal for some.  The poor weather has not only delayed harvesting and planting but has also affected grain quality, particularly in spring barley, which is our biggest crop.  

“Early reports of grain analysis across the country indicated a wide variance in quality and, on behalf of arable farmers, we contacted key malting and distilling stakeholders in early September to highlight the challenges that the weather has placed on our members, encouraging them to consider small changes to their requirements to ensure they can secure as much Scottish-grown barley as possible. 

“It has been a hard-won harvest this year, with lower prices this season set against the highest input costs ever seen.  On top of that, recent wet weather will have brought unwelcome drying costs as well.  We will continue to assess what impact this is having on cash flow on Scottish arable farms and NFU Scotland’s third annual intentions survey, due to be launched at the end of the year, will identify if the combination of costs, market returns and a challenging year weather-wise have altered business plans for growers.”  


Contact Bob Carruth on 07788 927675

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 54/23

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About The Author

Bob Carruth

A dairy farmer’s son, I joined NFU Scotland in 1999 after 13 years as an agricultural journalist. Following spells as a regional manager and policy lead on milk, livestock and animal health and welfare, I became Communications Director in 2008.

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