Harvest survey reveals new records for wheat and barley

Jock Willmott, partner at Strutt & Parker’s Cambridge office.

Jock Willmott, partner at Strutt & Parkers Cambridge office. - Credit: Archant

The average yield for first wheat crops has risen by 7.2% this year to nearly 10.9 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), according to newly-compiled results from Strutt & Parker’s annual Harvest Yields Survey.

It covers 86 farms in East Anglia, the South East and the Midlands which are either managed by the firm or where it is responsible for the agronomy decisions.

The overall average winter wheat yield was 10.23t/ha across the farms, the highest since Strutt & Parker began benchmarking harvest data 17 years ago. This was 1.5% up on last year’s average yield and compares to a five-year average of 9.07t/ha.

First wheat yields averaged 10.88t/ha while the figure for second wheats was 9.25t/ha.

“Last year saw record yields for both wheat and barley and this year has surpassed these once again,” said Jock Willmott, partner at Strutt & Parker’s Cambridge office.

“It is gratifying that once again our yield statistics looks to be notably higher than both the national average and the regional yields data set for the eastern region.

“Higher yields were achieved as rust and septoria pressure was slow to emerge with a cold start to the 2015 spring and in general this followed through to harvest. A kinder autumn for delayed drilling in 2014 also led to reduced blackgrass pressures and consequently lower yield penalties.

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“However, the second wheat yield fell by 5.9% from last year, with signs of take-all reported from a number of farms, worsened by the hot June conditions. That said, second wheat remains a viable crop for most farms with the 2015 average yields well above the five-year average of 8.54t/ha.”

Winter and spring barley also performed well in the yield results with winter barley averaging 8.30t/ha and spring barley 7.02t/ha.

“Steady spring rainfall led to some very successful spring barley crops on heavy land, some growers averaging over 9t/ha, a welcome benefit to cultural blackgrass control,” said Mr Willmott.

“Winter barley had a consistent year, with low disease pressure experienced, and remains a useful option for getting oilseed rape up and away early in the absence of neonictinoid seed treatments.”

The effects of the neonictinoid ban were felt by growers, when it came to oilseed rape yields, the report reveals. Early cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) damage led to 12.3% of East Anglian crops being re-drilled or written off.

Crops that were taken through to harvest in the hardest-hit areas of Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire continued to suffer larvae damage in the spring.

This meant overall average yields were down 2.2% to 3.72t/ha for double-low varieties and there was a sharp decrease in yields for HEAR (High Erucic Acid Rape) varieties to 3.24t/ha – 12.5% down on 2014. This yield decrease masks the true extent of CSFB damage, where the worst hit crops were not taken through to harvest.

Beans showed a slight improvement on 2014, averaging 3.51t/ha for winter varieties and 4.24t/ha for spring varieties. It was noted that increasing seed rates to just over 40 plants/m2 gave good results.

“However, the increased pulse area grown has coincided with the price of beans crashing in recent months and combined with inconsistent bruchid beetle control, the profitability of the crop has been greatly reduced,” added Mr Willmott.