Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Challenging harvest is variable at best for region’s growers

August 18, 2020 by  
Filed under Crops

Oilseed rape and winter barley yields are sharply down on last year – and the five-year average – as a challenging harvest continues.

Yields are also highly variable, both within and between farms, confirms the first 2020 harvest progress report from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. This is unsurprising given the challenging season faced by growers, it says.

Nationally, early yield indications show that winter oilseed rape crops harvested to date are averaging 2.5-2.9t/ha – some 30% below the five-year average of 3.5t/ha. But oil content is reported to be typical so far.

Barley yields

Winter barley yields are averaging 6.4- 6.8t/ha – around 4-10% down on the five-year average of 7.1t/ha. The AHDB says there are reports of higher screenings and some higher nitrogen levels in East Anglia but it remains early for quality data.

Yields were calculated based on fields that were taken to harvest – with a high number of oilseed rape fields were written off by end-May, said AHDB senior analyst Helen Plant. Where only part the field was harvested, the yield was calculated from the total field area.

The 2020 GB harvest is so far in line with typical progress for winter barley, and slightly ahead for winter oilseed rape. Some 56% of the GB winter barley area and 49% of the winter oilseed rape area was cut by 28 July.

Wheat harvest

The winter wheat and spring barley harvests are now under way, with growers starting to combine early drilled early wheat varieties on lighter land during the first week of August.

“In parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, the rain in spring came just in time, saving yields,” says Matthew Keane of BASF. “It’s a bit early to start predicting t/ha but they are certainly looking better than we thought they might earlier in the season.”

Considering last autumn, wheat crops are generally looking quite clean across the east of England. “Where growers managed to get pre-emergence and early post-emergence herbicides on, they have done a good a job.”

Market outlook

AHDB’s Planting and Variety Survey showed the English oilseed rape area at an 18-year low and small yields will compound the situation. UK prices are already positioned to stimulate imports to account for a small crop, said Ms Plant.

“There’s unlikely to be too much room for further gains, unless the EU or world markets also lift. There could be potential for EU prices to lift later in the autumn but that’s dependent on the size of the EU and Ukrainian crops.

“Given the surge in spring barley plantings this year, the UK will need to export barley onto the world market and ex-farm feed barley prices are some £40/t below feed wheat, reflecting that need.”