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Farmers battle with delayed harvest and spoilt crops
4:08pm Friday 31st August 2012 in Farming
WET conditions and harvest delays are challenging the region’s arable farmers following months of inclement weather.
Barley, wheat and oil seed rape crops have taken a battering, placing extra pressure on farm incomes through yield losses and increased costs.
By mid-August, GrainCo, the largest grain trading and marketing business in the north of England and Scotland, described the region’s grain crops as “disappointing”.
Gary Bright, managing director, said: “The wet weather has caused delays. At this stage, both quality and yield are down and this trend is likely to continue over the harvest period. It’s likely 70 per cent of crops are substandard and only 30 per cent running good.
“Conditions vary from farm to farm and area to area but barley is disappointing.
“Varieties that performed exceptionally well last year such as Volume, were running at four tonnes plus per acre.
This year, we’ve seen Volume running at 2.4 tonnes.
Moisture content remains fairly constant at 16 per cent with only a few down to 14 per cent.”
Alack of sunshine and further rain throughout August resulted in uneven ripening, crops going down and delays in harvesting.
Combines have stuttered and started with farmers reporting seed loss from downed crops and further losses through reel and cutter bar shatter.
Oil seed rape crops have also suffered. Pod-shatter has caused yield loss as a result of rapid drying out and the yoyo effect of sunshine and further heavy showers. The north has also been hit by freak hail storms shattering pods and decimating crops.
Contractor Roger Dickinson, managing director of J O Straughan, Stannington, Northumberland, said: “Harvesting has been delayed and ground conditions can generally be described as ‘terrible’ in most of northern England. Yields are down by approximately 25 per cent with moisture content high.
“Some farmers are combining just to get crops off the fields and face considerable drying charges. The delay in harvesting will delay ground works for sowing next year’s crops.”
Mr Dickinson, who is also chairman of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) and former contractor of the year, said farms in Kent and Norfolk were not as severely affected as those in the north.
He said: “Straw baling has also been a concern for farmers and in a livestock county like Northumberland, that requires large amounts for bedding and feeding, the swathes haven’t been lifted or baled.
“It gets damp coming off the combine and hits the wet ground conditions. Some farms on the Borders have decided to chop their straw instead.”