Harvest held back by weather worries

Tractor, trailer and combine harvester in a field
Brexit worries, tariff concerns, mixed weather and high drying costs are blighting what promised to be a great harvest in Scotland. Crop reports from around the country show all farmers in the same boat.

Crop reports from round the country show all farmers in the same boat.

Brexit worries, tariff concerns, mixed weather and high drying costs are blighting what promised to be a great harvest in Scotland.

NFU Scotland growers around the country have been reporting some success with winter barley and small amounts of oilseed rape.

However the recent poor weather means harvest for rape, wheat and spring barley will now have to be squeezed into the next available weather window and when ground conditions for machinery improve. Sowing winter crops of oilseed rape, wheat and barley may also be delayed.

Most grower are also resigned to drying costs, coming at a time when prices are falling, input costs are rising, and Brexit brings the threat of ‘no deal’ and an unfair playing field on import tariffs.

Reports have been received from growers in Perthshire, Berwickshire, Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Aberdeenshire, Kincardineshire, Angus and Fife.

NFU Scotland Vice President Charlie Adam also visited grower Willie Thomson in East Lothian this week to see conditions on the ground.


NFU Scotland Vice President Charlie Adam speaks to grower Willie Thomson

NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Chairman Ian Sands, who farms at Balbeggie in Perthshire said

Ian Sands NFU Scotland Combinable Crops Chairman

Growers the length and breadth of Scotland all seem to be in the same boat as we watch the promise of a very good harvest falter in the wet weather.

In Perthshire, it is very challenging. The harvesting of winter barley and oilseed rape should all be finished but there is a bit of winter barley still to be cut and straw that has been lying for some time waiting to be baled is looking very weathered now.

There is still quite a bit of oilseed rape to cut which will not be faring well in the heavy rain we have been getting. Some losses will have inevitably happened.

Spring barley is just starting to come ready so we will know soon how it has fared over the past few weeks of bad weather. Some small amounts of wheat have been cut and worryingly there are reports of it sprouting in the head already!

Regardless of what crop anyone is trying to harvest, the fields are very soft for travelling across with combines and trailers and, with more rain forecast, this will not improve anytime soon.

Nothing will have been cut at very low moisture, adding into the mix a high cost of drying at a time when prices are falling. Wheat futures tumbled by £4 per tonne on Thursday to compound falling prices over the past weeks, making it a very worrying time now.

The feared Brexit speculation that prices would fall is not speculation anymore – it is a reality.

Hopefully the weather picks up and quick progress can be made through the main part of harvest and we can get next year’s crops back in the ground in decent conditions.

Harvest Reports from around Aberdeenshire

Sandy Henderson, Little Ythsie, Tarves, Ellon

The weather has been very catchy. On winter barley, there is a lot of straw left lying from late cut crops, some of it up to 3 weeks old, and that will hold up planting for some. Harvesting of oilseed rape is underway. Spring barley and wheat are at least a week away for us but there are a lot of battered spring barley crops around. Moisture levels of what has been harvested so far are high. Harvest is probably more typical of a normal year than last year’s heatwave.

The weather is a worry but it’s not a disaster yet.

Jack Stevenson, Brangan, Boyndie, Banff

Winter barley harvest is almost complete, and it’s been very stop start over the past couple of weeks. There are still some areas with oilseed rape to lift that has been lying in a swath for three weeks and is not looking good.

There are big problems getting straw cleared for oilseed rape planting and one estate near us has put self-propelled forage harvester into winter barley straw to get land cleared.

We are getting very heavy localised showers nearly every day making ground very wet. I anticipate that spring barley will be starting the middle of next week when hopefully weather improves! There is lodging in some spring barley fields and harvesting them will be tricky.

It is a complete contrast to last year, with our winter barley yields down by 0.6 tonnes per acre.

Andrew Moir, Thornton Mains, Laurencekirk

At home, we achieved outstanding yields of winter barley with no issues travelling and the crops cut in late July and early August. Since then we have had about 100ml of rain and more to come tonight.

Our oats are ready, but the land is unable to carry the combine. I know because I tried and failed on Tuesday!! We really need rain to stop now as four or five dry days are needed to let ground dry enough to carry machinery.

The stop/start harvest means we will have barley, oilseed rape, wheat and oats all needing cut at the same time, putting pressure on the availability of combines, trailers and balers. And as I write this, it is raining again.

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