East Anglia’s cereal growers hope for average winter barley crop as combining begins

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. Pictured is combine driver Nick Light. Picture: GREGG

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. Pictured is combine driver Nick Light. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

The combines began to emerge across East Anglia this week as farmers start in early on their winter barley crops.

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. Pictured is combine driver Nick Light. Picture: GREGG

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. Pictured is combine driver Nick Light. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Reports suggest that harvest is about a week to 10 days earlier than average this year - but many will be thankful if they manage average yields and quality after difficult spring growing conditions caused by lack of rain hit plant development.

Although many were waiting a day or two with a view to starting in on harvest in the second week of July, a few were already getting through it.

But some were reporting a possible impact on the quality of their barley crops - dependent on field conditions.

Ed Bradshaw, farm manager at Lea Farm, Great Ashfield, near Elmswell, was well through his winter barley harvest when he was temporarily stopped by a downpour on Thursday, July 6, but resumed as good weather returned.

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. The crop collected is winter barley. Picture: GREGG B

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. The crop collected is winter barley. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

So far, the harvest had been 'not too bad' in his better field, he said.

'The first couple of fields it died off quite early just because it was so dry. That's why we are combining early,' he said.

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But the quality was 'not brilliant', he added. He expected to have finished combining just over 100 acres of winter barley and be onto his oilseed rape crop by Monday, July 10.

Meanwhile John Collen, at Gisleham, near Lowestoft, who started harvesting his winter barley this week, said he was finding that on his heavy land the yield was very good, but less good for quality.

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. The crop collected is winter barley. Picture: GREGG B

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. The crop collected is winter barley. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Andrew Blenkiron, director at the Euston Estate, near Thetford, said on his farm combining had just begun on Friday, July 7.

The winter barley was a 'reasonable sample - slightly better than we thought it would be', he said. He thought quality would be around average. He had started on a 'salvage operation' on fields where the land was very light and found that the crop had 'burnt off or dried off rather than ripened'.

'The spring has just been far too dry for our light land. The barley especially has suffered because of the drought leading in to April, May and into June.' As a result, the number of tillers, or side-shoots, had died back, he said.

He felt they would struggle to get to average yields but it was 'a bit early to tell' in terms of quality.

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. The crop collected is winter barley. Picture: GREGG B

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. The crop collected is winter barley. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. The crop collected is winter barley. Picture: GREGG B

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. The crop collected is winter barley. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

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