Euston Estate completes cereals harvest in record time
- Credit: Andrew Blenkiron
A major farming estate on the Norfolk-Suffolk border has completed its fastest cereal harvest for decades – but the dry conditions which helped the combines have hindered the farm's yield.
The Euston Estate, near Thetford, has gathered 1,700 acres of wheat and barley in less than a month, having started on July 2.
Estate director Andrew Blenkiron said the completion of the cereals harvest, three weeks earlier than usual, was the fastest in his 35 years of farming.
But while weeks without rainfall meant the farm saved money on vehicle fuel, delays and grain drying, they had also damaged the yield – particularly for the winter wheat, which he said would be down by £100,000.
'It is amazing,' he said. 'I have never in my farming career finished cereals in July – some years we have been lucky to start it by now.
'The harvest has been very easy. From the first week we didn't have to dry anything. The average moisture of the crop was around 12pc.
'But we have probably lost £100,000 of yield on the wheat harvest, as a result of the lack of moisture over the last few weeks.
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'At around 6t/ha (tonnes per hectare) we were probably a third down on our potential yield, but the quality was good in terms of it all achieving bread-making specifications, and the bushel weight was good too.
'Compared to 2011 when we had 3.5t/ha we are taking it as a positive. It demonstrates what we have done over the last few years to mitigate against these dry summers. We won't plant wheat after the end of September to get it established well, so when we get significant droughts it has the roots down where the moisture is.
'We put more organic matter down into the soil, using digestate from our anaerobic digestion plant. And we are doing a lot more cover crops. We have done all these things to mitigate against this kind of drought.'
Mr Blenkiron said winter barley yields were down 10pc, but 'quality was really good, and the straw was exceptional'.
He said his major concern now is for his sugar beet crop.
'It needs some rain pretty desperately otherwise, or we will lose some of that crop,' he said. 'It has lost some of the yield already.'