Farmers breathe sigh of relief as harvest nears end

Arable farmers are combining the last of their wheat crop as harvest 2015 enters its final phase.

Arable farmers are combining the last of their wheat crop as harvest 2015 enters its final phase. - Credit: Archant

Arable farmers across Essex and Suffolk are nearing the end of harvest, with around 10 to 20% of their wheat crops left to combine.

Suffolk and Essex's harvest 2015 is nearing completion

Suffolk and Essex's harvest 2015 is nearing completion - Credit: Archant

Rachel Carrington, Suffolk county adviser with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said barleys and oilseed rape crops were just about wrapped up and wheat was getting there.

“Harvest has really cracked on over the last week with the good weather,” she said.

But she added: “Yields have been pretty variable, with the best yields of cereals on the heavier land. Light land around the coast has probably suffered a bit with the dry conditions.”

Across the counties, first yield estimates were looking good across the two counties with milling wheat coming in at around 8.5 to 9 tonnes a hectare and quality looking quite good. Some yields for feed wheat were around 10t/ha, but there was “quite a bit of variability” depending on soil conditions at drilling and soil type, she said.

Malting barley quality was looking good, although yields were variable from 6 to 8t/ha. Feed barley yields fared better, and were generally good, varying from 7 to 9.5t/ha.

Oilseed rape was probably showing the most variable results, based on soil conditions at drilling and infestations of cabbage stem flea beetle. Many fields drilled were never taken to harvest. Most are reporting yields below the five year average, at around 2.5 to 3 t/ha.

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Bill Baker, who farms at Drinkstone, near Stowmarket, said his yields of oilseed rape and spring barley, both of which were in, were above average.

“We are 70 to 80% through the wheat harvest and quality has been good, exceptional actually. Yields have been above average. I don’t think they’ll probably reach the high of last year which was exceptional.”

Farmers are expecting some rain and thundery weather which could slow down harvest as it heads towards the finish line.

“We are going flat-out but we can only do so much in a day. We are not at all unhappy with anything other than prices,” said Mr Baker. “Production’s up, but on a global level also the supply and demand is fairly comfortable.”

Around harvest, wheat prices tend to drop as crops from farmers without enough storage facilities fills the marketplace, so he is hoping it will pick up after that he says - although there are no guarantees.

In price terms, oilseed rape was on a par with last year, barley had dipped below the £100 a tonne mark, and wheat was around £110 to £112 for November, he said. “We can’t do any more than we have done. The weather’s been on our side so we have got good quality. We are happy,” he said.

“We always reckon if we can finish by Bank Holiday we are doing well.”