The GB 2020 harvest season has faced challenging weather conditions, with periods of exceptionally hot weather, interspersed with prolonged periods of wet weather. Weather during the growing season was also changeable with heavy rainfall during October and November 2019 preventing the planned drilling of some winter wheat, with some farmers opting to replace with spring barley. Later on, in the season the wettest month on record was recorded in February. As a result of these unpredictable conditions, yields and crop quality are variable, both between regions, but even within fields.

Barley

The GB harvest of winter barley started in the South and East regions during the second week of July and was complete by mid-August. Unsurprisingly yields are highly variable with average yields for winter barley (6.5-6.7t/ha) below the 5 year average (7.1t/ha), with bare or thin patches seen within fields bringing the average down (AHDB Harvest Report 4). Higher yields have been seen with crops on heavier soils, where the dry spring had less of an effect due to better moisture retention compared to lighter soils.

The GB spring barley harvest is now well underway and recent dry weather has bought progress in line with the last two years. Indications for spring barley yield ranges between 5.7-6.1t/ha which is around the five-year average (AHDB Harvest Report 4). Recent heavy rain has caused lodging with some farmers choosing to harvest at slightly higher moistures, with most of the recently harvested grain requiring drying.

Initial results from our survey indicate barley protein has increased by around 0.5% compared to results from last year’s survey with an average protein of 10.6%, although results range from below 9% to 11.5%. Moisture results have been variable with higher moisture levels seen in the Northern regions but on average a slight decrease year on year. 

Wheat

The GB wheat harvest began at the beginning of August during a period of dry, warm weather, starting in the South, East and Midlands. Yields are averaging 7.1-7.5t/ha, which is below the 5 year average of 8.4t/ha (AHDB Harvest Report 4). Poorer yields have been seen on either later sown crops that went into poor seed beds or crops on very light soils where root development was initially affected early on in the growing season due to water-logging, but then affected by water stress due to continued dry conditions and lack of root system. This variability, both between regions but even within fields has made forecasting yields for the season challenging.

Earlier on in the harvest, some grains required cooling prior to storage, but more recently, due to the wetter weather, crops have required drying and green grains have been reported, particularly in the more Northern regions where farmers have chosen to harvest before full ripeness due to forecasted bad weather.

Initial results from our survey indicate average wheat protein close to or slightly above last year, but with significant regional variation. Similarly to barley, moisture results are also slightly lower but samples may have been submitted for analysis post drying.

 

As these initial results are based on a relatively small sample set, they should be interpreted with a degree of caution. As the dataset increases over the coming weeks for both wheat and barley from all regions, we will report further on these trends.