Two sides of the country, two sides to the harvest story

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Crops across the UK are looking good at the beginning of harvest, but there is disparity between east and west.

Wynnstay’s head of seeds, Toby Reich, explains that although autumn sown crops had a good start, with a warm and mild planting season, the dry spring was challenging, particularly in the east of the country. 

“In many cases the lack of moisture meant fertiliser wasn’t taken up as quickly as it needed to be,” he says.

Further west more lush

“Further west, crops have been looking much more lush, as the rainfall in April came at the right time to prevent loss of tillers. However, in the last month both wheat and barley are starting to turn faster than expected, meaning a slightly earlier harvest and lower yield, even in the west.”  

Mr Reich highlights that although this year’s crops have been challenging in terms of dry weather and rising input costs, the rewards back from them are potentially huge. 

“Taking grain price where it is now, and how it is set to change, we could be looking at the average 8.3 tonnes farm crop hitting £1,000 profitability per hectare,” he says.  

He also stresses the importance of looking beyond the immediate future. “In the approach to harvest, there are decisions to be made which will impact the profitability of 2023 crops. 

Variety choice 

“Variety choices could potentially have a massive impact,” he notes. “For example, Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) can reduce yield by up to 60% in wheat, but symptoms won’t be seen until next summer.”

If farmers plant early and aphid numbers are high, Mr Reich explains farmers can only reactively apply pyrethroid sprays. However, these are costly, require multiple applications and have limited persistence. 

“And frustratingly, this means waiting several months to see what the impact is,” he adds. “Personally, I would take a proactive approach to the problem and use a wheat variety with a resistance trait, to give protection from BYDV throughout the year. 

“It also means if a pyrethroid spray is required to control other pests in spring, it’s still available as an option.  

“Investing wisely for next years’ crops, regardless of whether they are going for feed, milling or distilling, variety choices and the right inputs at the right time will be crucial to be looking at another successful harvest this time next year,” he concludes.

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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.