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Farming Insights – Harvest

It is safe to say it’s been a challenging season.  The mild winter resulted in little frost to kill off any malingering weeds and bugs. This was followed by a fantastically warm and dry spring and talk of an early harvest. However the 6 week drought impacted on the spring sown crops as well as the straw required for autumn livestock bedding.

As we headed into Agricultural Show season we faced rain and thunder storms. There was rain on St Swithin’s Day and true to form so far we have had the 40 days of rain that this predicts.

There is a saying that “Harvest will be when Harvest is”. The theory is that Mother Nature knows when we should be harvesting our crops for the autumn. In the 10 years I have been directly involved with day to day farming, the date that we start our spring crop harvest each year, has only varied by 7 -10 days – albeit that the silage crop start and finish date has fluctuated more with the changing weather and resultant grass quality and quantity.

Crops this year are, so far, looking reasonable. Those who were early with their sowing do not appear universally to have secured a premium yield, as the dry spell in the early spring resulted in slow germination in some locations – especially in sandy soils. Those who were later in sowing their crops appear to have attained higher yield and straw length than was previously predicted.

By the end of July AHDB reports that 50% of Winter Barley had been harvested alongside 27% of Winter Oil Seed Rape in Scotland. They further report that *“The better yields [9.5 t/ha] are tending to come from heavier soil types, whilst on lighter land, yields as low as 5.5 t/ha have been reported for the more water stressed crops”.

The AHDB Supply and Demand report ** noted at the end of July that the UK is forecast to be a net importer of wheat in 2016/17 and enters the new marketing season with a relatively lower level of stocks. They also forecast that Barley exports set to fall by 50% year on year, to the lowest level since 2012/13.  In addition the increase in Biofuel demand has increased the consumption of domestic maize this season.

However the annual steady increase in the demand for milling oats has continued.

What does this mean to the individual farmer? The lower stock of wheat being retained from last year means there may be a higher demand for purchase of wheat. This could affect the trading price in a positive direction, for those not already in contract. Those who are in contract, may see more leniency in terms of acceptability limits if the market price rises higher than the contracted premium per tonne.

Malting Barley export reductions possibly reflect the increased domestic demand for brewing and distilling and the call for “Scottish” ingredients for their geographically sensitive products.

 

 

The continued interest in renewable energy in the form of Anaerobic Digesters and Biomass/Biogas plants is resulting in higher use of maize and silage, rather than it being used in food production.

The Milling Oats Market seems still buoyant.  There are several types of interested purchasers for various manufacturing products and thus most quality standards of oats are being sold or contracted for purchase later in the season.

And once harvest is complete, the rush is on to prepare the land ready for the next crops to be sown – and so the cycle continues.

Sources:

ADHB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board)
*https://cereals.ahdb.org.uk/markets/market-news/2017/july/21/gb-harvest-progress-2017-report-1.aspx
**https://cereals.ahdb.org.uk/media/1257945/21-June-UK-cereals-SD-final.pdf