August 27, 2013
West Midlands harvest ‘reality check’
Winter wheat, spring barley, winter rape and potatoes are all coming ready in a frantic rush for Shropshire-based Agrii agronomist, Peter Jones and his West Midlands customers. And, while the harvest certainly isn’t looking bad given the challenges of the season, they think it’s high time to add a good dose of reality to ‘pub talk’ reports involving unadjusted, unweighed yields from part crops in a year of such immense variability.
“Our winter barleys are all done now,” he reports. “Adjusted for moisture content, over the weighbridge and across the full crop we’re seeing winter feeds come it at around 7.5t/ha on average, with Cassia and California standing out. The malting crops are typically down at
5-6 t/ha. In both cases, the samples are nice though.
“Apart from crops on very light, exposed ground which were badly hit by the summer heat wave, our spring barleys have been a very pleasant surprise at an average 6-7.5t/ha and good quality despite late planting after failed winter crops and a very slow start. This has been especially encouraging as the alternative would have been a fallow.”
Mauled in a month later than ideal and suffering from almost every possible barrier to growth and development right up to mid-April, oilseed rape has definitely been the disappointment of the year, in Peter Jones’ experience. A good 25-30% of the area sown had to be pulled out, and the surviving crops have been generally thin, weedy and patchy with almost non-existent headlands.
“The yield monitors may have flicked up around the 5t mark in places, but in the barn where it counts most crops have struggled to deliver 3t/ha,” he notes. “The most robust hybrids,
DK ExPower and Excalibur have, though, generally done half a tonne better than the rest.
“In complete contrast, the spring rape which replaced a lot of our failed winter crops looks outstanding. It isn’t in the barn yet. However, I’d be very surprised if it didn’t comfortably out-yield many of our winter survivors.”
Patchiness and poor headlands have been very much par for the course in the region’s winter wheats too. Even so, the way many crops have come back and filled-in since May has been hugely gratifying to Peter Jones. What’s more, this has been reflected in feed wheat yields over the weighbridge averaging a creditable 8-8.5t/ha and Group 2s like Panorama doing 7.5t/ha.
“Again it’s looking like a year for later-maturing varieties,” he suggests, “with Cocoon a star performer amongst the biscuit wheats and bread-maker, Crusoe doing particularly nicely on the light land. Having said that, though, Solstice has been exceptional.
“When everything’s done and dusted, for most up here it certainly won’t have been the sort of season some early headline reports might have suggested. “Nor will it have been the disaster that was looking likely for many back in March either. Overall, relief is probably our overwhelming emotion just now.”