Harvest starts two weeks early as sun shines on winter barley
- Credit: Gregg Brown
The combine harvesters have been started up early as Norfolk farmers have begun bringing in the winter crop.
A heatwave throughout June has helped speed up the growth of winter barley and wheat – but growers will have to wait to find out if the quality is high.
Ed Lankfer, who farms at Laurel Farm, Wereham, near Downham Market, said his stores were already filling up, two weeks earlier than expected.
He said: 'We've been munching into the winter barley very nicely, there is an impressive amount of straw and grain yields are good but I don't know the quality of it yet.
'Fingers crossed it is good because the shed is nearly full which is always a good sign.
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'We grow C1 seed for farmers to use next year so I am not sure if it is that quality, we don't know how this drought might have affected it.'
Mr Lankfer was not the only one surprised by the early crop – which he put down to the weather.
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He said: 'It is a good couple of weeks early. My grain trader is actually on holiday.
'I rang him and got the abroad dial tone.'
He added Thursday's downpour had slowed progress and meant some of the barley was still drying out.
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.
Andrew Blenkiron, director at the Euston Estate, near Thetford, said combining had just begun on his farm.
The winter barley was a 'reasonable sample – slightly better than we thought it would be', he said.
Mr Blenkiron 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.