Harvest continues to be a stop-start affair as Britain heads for its wettest August on record.
Growers have been plagued by heavy and widespread showers for the last week and, with no let-up in the conditions forecast, many are bracing themselves for more turbulence.
Frontier agronomist Andrew Roy, who covers North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland, described the situation as “pretty demoralising”.
Most barley and oilseed rape has been cut in North Yorkshire and barley was 80-90% cut in Durham. About 60-70% of the rapeseed crop had been harvested, but progress was much slower in Northumberland.
Mr Roy said yields had been exceptional for barley and most rapeseed had been “pretty good as well”.
‘Messed things up’
However, soil conditions were extremely wet and there was anxiety about reaching crops still to harvest and drilling rapeseed.
Intense rainfall in some parts of North Yorkshire in recent weeks has also led to lodging in some wheat crops, Mr Roy added.
Russell McKenzie, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, was forced to abandon combining on Monday (August 12), with his wheat harvest about 50% complete.
He said: “We had 5mm of rain on Sunday, more than we were expecting, which messed things up.
“We had 20-30mm the other week and the high winds on Saturday had dried it out, but we were pushed back to square one.”
‘Rot setting in’
Wheat crops were battered with heavy rain and 40-50mph winds at Tom Martin’s farm near Peterborough, also in eastern England, leading to some crops falling over and putting a halt to harvest.
He said: “We lost some Dunston feed wheat and Revelation has lodged in a small number of places. Our Zyatt is down in places too but not flat.”
Quality was also suffering.
Mr Martin added: “Some grain is starting to chit in the ear and some rot is setting in, but that is to be expected.
“It has been ripe for nearly three weeks and it has gone wet and dry every second or third day, so it is poor conditions for keeping wheat and malting barley quality.”
Despite this, early wheat yields have topped the five-year average of 8.6 tonnes per hectare, with the first field of KWS Zyatt yielding 10 tonnes per hectare, and second wheat yielding 8.5 tonnes per hectare at 16% moisture.
The Met Office predicted more rain throughout August, which could beat 1912’s record, when a total of 167.6mm fell.
The wet conditions have already hampered this year’s brassica crops, with the British Growers Association expecting a shortage.