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Unseasonably Wet Summer Causing Stop Start Harvest

With such poor weather throughout this harvest season, it has been a mix bag of results so far for cereal farmers.

The fifth wettest summer since records began has brought with it mixture of fortunes for Scotland’s arable farmers, some of whom are worried they won’t be able to finish up before the end of the season while others are reporting some of their best yields in years.  

NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Chairman, Ian Sands, said: “Harvest so far in Perthshire has been very stop start with the past week being mostly stop. Oil seed rape has yielded well as has the spring barley and it has been of good quality.  l would say it is the best yielding l have ever had.

“I have only cut just over 100 acres of wheat so far but it seems to be yielding well, although we are now really needing the weather to improve or quality might start to become a worry. All in all, harvest is going well but we need the weather to improve or things could end on a bad note.

“Also, most grain has cut at a higher moisture than usual which has meant higher drying costs.”

In the Highlands, many have managed to finish their spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape, with good yields overall, and relatively low moisture considering the weather.

The main concern for farmers in the north is the wet conditions causing the ground to be too wet to begin sowing for next year.

It is a different story in the North East, with many struggling to get their spring barley cut on time, no thanks to the poor weather last week at a crucial time.

Quality has also seemed to fall away because of the long wait to start harvesting, coming through uneven ripening in areas, despite starting harvest strongly early in the season.

Travel further south to Forth and Clyde and Ayrshire and you begin to see the real effects of the poor weather with many farmers preparing themselves for salvage jobs if the weather does not improve soon.

Farmers in these areas are reporting harvest is at a complete standstill, with combines not getting out since the start of last week, and are beginning to become concerned that they will not manage to string two or three good days together.  

Lothian and the Borders is very much the same with many struggling to get going over the last weeks. Those that have managed to get most of their harvest in are reporting decent yields, hitting around or above the average.

Common ground amongst the regions seems to be the concern for sowing next year’s crops with such wet ground conditions being seen across the board.

Notes to Editor

The following are summaries from growers in different regions.

Highlands

Cameron MacIver, Wester Coltfield, Forres, Combinable Crops Committee Highland Representative: “We finished harvest (spring barley) last Saturday which would be a couple of days behind last year. Yields look likely to be 2 and 3/4 tonnes per acre, the best over 3 tonnes. Nitrogen levels are slightly up but are still well within range. I haven't heard of any problems of skinning or splits. It was a problem getting straw dry enough to bale. For us, it has been an easy harvest but frustrating dodging heavy rain showers. But when we could get to it, it was easy to cut and low moisture. Further north, crops have been slow to ripen but good yields when they have. As usual it all boils down to the weather.  If it improves, it should be a good harvest. Haven't heard prices yet but should be better than last year

Ian Wilson, Tulloch Farm, Inverness-shire: “There are still many farmers around with large amounts of spring barley to cut, but in most cases this is because they cut their wheat in the last weather window. Combine wheels have not turned since middle of last week but everyone is going again this week, although conditions are not great. Moisture reports of 19-21% in spring barley and 20-24% in wheat. There is still a huge amount of straw lying in bouts. One neighbour has reported 1,000 acres lying behind a 35ft combine. More worrying however is the continued delays to sowing next year's crop. Ground conditions are absolutely sodden. Anything ploughed early is soaked and nowhere near fit to sow. Would normally have 150/200acres of wheat drilled by this stage before shifting to sow winter barley and oats. We have only managed sow oilseed rape so far.

North East

Charles Adam, Braeside, Aberdeenshire, Livestock Committee Chairman: “There is a lot of Spring barley left to cut in parts of the North East, especially in later areas but including in areas which I would normally expect to be cut by now, and very little progress in the last week because of rain. I have 120 acres of barley still to cut and have not started yet. Crops have been slow and uneven and late in ripening despite appearing well on earlier in the season. Crops sprayed with glyphosate and not yet harvested will be deteriorating now. Difficult to get a weather window to apply roundup to others. There is a lot of straw lying wet in the bout.”

Davie Winton, Haugh of Birse Farm, Aberdeenshire, North East Regional Chairman: “Combines are back rolling here this week, just hoping for luck that we miss the rain. Not sure of moisture yet but don't think it will be low.”

Lothian and Borders

Kelvin Pate, Aikeyside Farm, East Lothian, Lothian and Borders Regional Chairman: “Went for a run round East Lothian on Sunday. A fair bit of ground is cut even on the coast but when you come up 300 feet there are a lot of fields with end rigs cut or half fields cut. Very start stop harvest with the ground getting wetter but workable. My own barley is needing 3 days without rain.”

Neil White, Greenknowe, Berwickshire, Mid and East Berwick Combinable Crops Branch Monitor and Regional Committee Member: “Here in East Berwickshire it has been a long stop start job and is proving difficult with barley, oats, wheat and beans still to cut round about. Straw has been very difficult to get with lots of straw still lying awaiting drier weather which doesn’t look like arriving. A lot of straw has been chopped to help clear fields for following crops. Drying costs are up considerably but are preferred over crop loss. Crops seem good but have once again been difficult to get and the sowing of next year's crops is being compromised.”

Alistair Hodge, Whitsome, East Newton, Duns, Lothians and Borders Combinable Crops Committee Representative: “Harvest here in the Merse of Berwickshire is well through. I just have oats left to cut.  Winter barley and oilseed rape were above average at 3.75 and 1.95 ton per acre. Second wheats were poor at 3.25 ton and first wheats just short of 4 ton. Lack of sun when grain filling probably to blame and lost tiller's in the dry Spring. Hopefully get oats cut later this week weather frustrating as we would like to get on and sow next year's crops.”

James Logan, Samuelston South Mains, East Lothian, Lothian and Borders Potatoes Committee Representative: “I suppose you can sum this harvest up as frustrating. We have only just finished in East Lothian and I feel it has never happened. We never really had a good run at it with rain most days. There is a huge area still to combine in later areas and this is very worrying as the season becomes later. Ground conditions are now very wet and establishing next year’s crops will be a challenge. Yield wise it was average, which under the circumstances of the year was probably expected. Potatoes next and we need a dry period to help, as I said, ground is wet already.”

Willie Thomson, Wheatrig, East Lothian, Lothian and Border Regional Board Member and Combinable Crops Branch Monitor for East Lothian: “Harvest in East Lothian was going well, with wheat and spring barley being combined and OSR being sown, then things have been at a standstill for about 10 days, with only very short, sporadic periods available for combining.

 “I have thankfully finished my own harvest but still have a lot of contracting still to do with wheat, barley and oats still to go, moisture levels are in the mid-20s, and crops look vulnerable to the wind and rain that are forecast. Yields for 1st wheat have been good but with 2nd wheats being below average, barley yields have been very variable from exceptional to poor, nitrogen levels are acceptable, but with most samples showing splitting and screenings.”

Ayrshire

Jimmy Ireland, Feoch Farm, Ayrshire, Ayrshire Regional Chairman: “In Ayrshire, harvest is at a complete standstill. Our combine was brought home last Monday and now stands idle in the shed. We still have 20 acres of winter wheat to finish and then onto the spring barley. It is raining again now and tomorrow’s forecast is appalling. It’s a good thing I am an optimistic man.”

Forth and Clyde

Willie Harper, Gryffewraes Farm, Renfrewshire, Forth and Clyde Regional Chairman: “Harvest in Renfrewshire has been a damp affair so far. Wheat was all cut at high moisture and spring barley is broken down into the field before the combine. Unless the weather picks up soon it will be a salvage job.”

David Bryce, West Cambusdrennie, Stirling, Forth and Clyde Combinable Crops Committee Member: “It has been the most stop start harvest in Stirling that I can remember, if not quite the wettest. We had a good run at the wheat a couple of weeks ago. Started of cutting at 20% and watched it fall with most cut at 16%. Yields all over the place probably finishing around 3.7 tonnes per acre, not a disaster but it did look to have more potential. On to spring oats, strangely the reverse. Looked to be a potential disaster after a very dry spring but cutting them at 15% and a yield of 2.3 tonnes per acre.  Like many others we have straw lying everywhere and ground conditions worsening by the day. We really need a dry spell.”

East Central

Ian Sands, Townhead Farm, Perthshire, Combinable Crops Chairman: “Harvest so far in Perthshire has been very stop start with the past week being mostly stop. Oil seed rape has yielded well as has the spring barley and it has been of good quality l would say it is the best yielding l have ever had. I have only cut just over 100 acres of wheat so far but it seems to be yielding well, although we are now really needing the weather to improve or quality might start to become a worry. All in all, harvest is going well but we need the weather to improve or things could end not so well.  Also, most grain has cut at a higher moisture than usual which has meant higher drying costs.”

Euan Walker-Munro, Mains of Kinnettles, Angus, East Central Vice Chairman: “50 Ha of Oats still to cut at Kinnettles. Early established wheats have yielded well, but poor on the later spring barleys - though the early clue there was needing to irrigate to get them to germinate.”

Ends

Contact Douglas Ross on 0131 472 4108

Author: Douglas Ross

Date Published:

News Article No.: 133/17


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About The Author

Douglas Ross

As a graduate in Multimedia Journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University, NFU Scotland’s Communications Assistant Douglas Ross understands how important the media is for communicating with members. As the son of a Highlands farmer, Douglas has been involved in the industry his entire life before joining NFU Scotland in 2017.

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