Almost all the Scottish grain crop is still in the field with only spring barley having been combined so far and with the overcast weather and general lack of sun, the main requirement is patience with crops slow to ripen according to NFU Scotland vice-president John Picken.
With no spring barley of his own, the combines have still to make a start to the winter wheat and winter oats on his farm on the south side of St Andrews.
Looking further afield, he said it was clear that weather variations were playing a major role, with some areas getting on with combining and others just catching the odd spell between showers or longer spells of rain.
Most winter oilseed crops had now been harvested and he had heard of good yields with most crops taken in good condition. However, some that had been swathed had lost quality through sprouting before the combine was able to get to them.
One feature of this year’s harvest so far has been the need to dry the crop and, with fuel prices hitting new heights, this is a cause for concern, according to Picken.
"Last year, fuel was just over 50p per litre. Now it is over 70p per litre. The oil companies were swift to raise prices but now that the price of crude oil has fallen back, they are slow to pass on the benefit," he claimed.
Drying costs have also featured in some parts of England, with no set weather pattern and plenty of showers, Jack Watts of the Home Grown Cereals Authority saying that most of the wheat cut in the north of England had had to be dried.
On yields, he said the oilseed rape crops had surprised everyone with heavier than average crops; the five-year average for oilseeds being 3.3 tonnes per hectare and this year’s predicted yield coming in at 3.6 to 3.8 tonnes per hectare. He believed this was down to oilseed crops often being sown on heavier land thus avoiding the worst effects of the drought in April and May.
The same could not be said of either winter barley or wheat where both predicted yields were back on average by 10 per cent to 4.8/5.0 tonnes per hectare and 7.3/7.7 tonnes per hectare respectively. He estimated that almost all the winter barley in the UK had now been cut and half of the country’s winter wheat crop.
Only one third of the spring barley has been harvested in the UK and Watts said maltsters were waiting anxiously for samples as they had not been able to fulfil their normal requirements from the winter grown crop.