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Hopes high for a good barley harvest

PUBLISHED: 07:10 15 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:48 06 July 2010

Harvesting winter barley near Attlebridge.

Harvesting winter barley near Attlebridge.

As the combines started rolling across Norfolk yesterday early reports of the barley harvest were much better than feared.

"It is not a scare story by any stretch," said Mid-Norfolk farmer Edward Jones, who had an average yield of more than 2.

As the combines started rolling across Norfolk yesterday early reports of the barley harvest were much better than feared.

“It is not a scare story by any stretch,” said Mid-Norfolk farmer Edward Jones, who had an average yield of more than 2.7 tonnes an acre from his first 86 acres.

“It is running a good average, not exceptional but the quality is good,” he said. His combine, driven by Gavin Cooper was in action in a crop of winter-sown Flagon malting barley at Attlebridge in the Wensum Valley yesterday.

“The winter barley seems alright and is doing a lot better than expected. We've only just started,” said Mr Jones, of Normans' Charity Farm, Little Witchingham. He said that the yield was still averaging 6.8 tonnes per ha.

Grain merchant Stephen Howlett said that there were fears that the early season drought in March and April had hit yields and quality. Samples seen on the trading desk of merchants Openfield at Bressingham, Diss, were also better than expected, he said.

“It looks a lot better than many feared. We've been moving feed barley from Essex and that's pretty good stuff down there.”

Mr Howlett, who is regional manager, said that the firm's crop inspectors had found that “ear counts were quite good on the winter barleys but were wary of the spring barleys.”

For growers of malting barley, the quality indicators of early samples had shown nitrogen around the crucial 1.6pc level and screening were also fairly low, he added.

Chris Harrold, of Oulton, near Aylsham, started combining Pearl winter barley and said that samples looked better than expected. “This is extremely good news because there were concerns about the impact of the drought,” he added.

A near-neighbour, Jim Agnew, of Church Farm, who grows 250 acres of winter-sown malting barley, had started combining a 30-acre field of the variety, Cassata. “I think it looks quite good. We're on light land but I think that the rain just about came in time,” he said.

The crop was yielding about 2.75 tonnes an acre, which was a pleasant surprise and should go for malting, he added.

Mr Howlett said that while prices were not fantastic, if prices were poor then farmers would be hoping for a good dry harvest to minimise extra costs including drying grain.

Feed barley was making between £78 to £80 tonne, ex-farm, with no fresh trade for malting varieties, he added. A year ago, feed barley was trading about £123 tonne.

And the prospects for wheat indicated prices for September wheat at £101 tonne and November £106 - a year ago prices were about £144 tonne.

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