Mixed reports for 2016 in South Wiltshire, West Hampshire and Dorset. Abundant grass crops in a growing year with third cuts being gathered in August and dry weather at good intervals to allow a quality crop to be collected. And it’s nice to see the bales collected from the fields and brought back inside or into the yard. I never understand when farmers take the trouble to make their crop – and then leave it for weeks in the field.
Cereal crop results have been variable this year, but all in the shade of 2015 which farmers admit was record-breaking in yield. Some winter barley reached 2.5 tonnes per acre, but it’s been less common to reach 3 tonnes and bushel weight has been low so the quality has also been poor.
Spring barleys have done better and malting quality achieved. Oil seed rape seemed very patchy. Very few results reached 1.5 tonnes per acres and a lot struggled to even reach 1 tonne (quite a number, barely half of that). It just seems to depend on the weather at a certain time in the spring, moisture was enough but cold temperatures and lack of sun in June did not fill the ears.
As I write, final wheat results are not available. The standing crop looks good but so much depends on the grain. A small bead may still weigh well but whether it makes milling quality may depend on future market conditions and demand. The best quality milling wheat must have a high reading using the HFN (Hagberg Falling Number) test, which establishes how much of the grain’s starch has converted to sugar. Prices are tending to be firm enough, but that in part is – following Brexit – due to the reduced value of the £ and the higher export price.
The dry weather has seen some bright clean straw made too. Too early to say if its value will hold, if fodder stocks are high, but at least this year – so far – there is quality on offer.