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Another week of frustration for East Anglia’s farmers as wheat harvest hampered by showers

PUBLISHED: 08:42 04 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:24 04 August 2017

Combine harvesters at work in the fields near Framsden.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Combine harvesters at work in the fields near Framsden. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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East Anglian farmers have faced another week of frustration and delay as rain continues to disrupt harvest.

Combine harvesters at work in the fields near Framsden.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Combine harvesters at work in the fields near Framsden. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The rain delays mean that although cereal growers seemed poised to bring in their crops ahead of schedule, they are more likely now to come in on time.

The added moisture in the harvested crops is putting pressure on drying facilities on farms, and causing potential headaches for those approaching their drying store limits.

Rob Raven, who sits on the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) eastern region combinable crops board and farms at Henstead, near Beccles, said a lot of his crops were ready to cut, but persistent showers were holding him back.

“Operationally this is a bit of a pain,” he said.

Combine harvesters at work in the fields near Framsden.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Combine harvesters at work in the fields near Framsden. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“Because we had such an early start, we are still on schedule I would say. We are probably about halfway through, which is where we would normally expect to be - it’s just the crops are a bit more ready than they would normally be.”

In terms of his wheat crop, he was only about 20% in, although his winter barley and oilseed rape had been combined.

A hot, dry period in June meant many crops were ripening ahead of schedule, and although farmers welcomed some rain to fill out the grains, they are now keen to get them combined.

Drying costs would be high, he predicted, “The grain is very, very soft still,” he said.

“We need a day or two of really good weather and no more showers.

“The crops are ready earlier than usual but everybody’s held up by the showers.”

Farmers were finding their grain was wet, although yields had been good this year and the quality was also looking fine, he said. Heavy land crops had been particularly good, he added.

At the same time, prices have improved, and malting barley prices are looking particularly good.

Over at the Euston Estate, near Thetford, estate director Andrew Blenkiron admitted harvest had been “a bit frustrating” this year.

“We managed to do an extra day’s combining this week as opposed to last week - we are actually progressing reasonably well,” he said. “We are having to dry some of the wheat, but the quality is there. The yield seems to be doing quite well.”

Overall, the quality was better than expected, he said.

In Essex, Tom Bradshaw, of Fordham, near Colchester, who is chair of the NFU’s East Anglia crops board, said on Thursday that he had made some progress this week.

“We had rain last night so that was enough scupper plans today,” he said. “We started malting barley on Monday - we have done about 115ha of that. We have just had some test results back - it all seems to have made malting grade. Yield looks average or just above and the quality looks good.”

Moisture levels were potentially an issue but one farmers would have to deal with, he said.

His wheat harvest started on Wednesday, just before the downpours. First results seemed encouraging, he said.

Glenn Buckingham, at Helmingham estate near Ipswich, also made a bit of progress, but was held back by rain.

His milling wheat was in barn, waiting for the first Hagberg and protein results to measure its quality.

From now on, the wheat would be feed wheat, with the first batch leaving next week to be used as chicken feed, a week after coming off the field.

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