It’s been a long, frustrating end to a difficult season for many growers, especially in the south, where cloudy damp weather has slowed harvest progress. Others have been lucky enough to dodge showers and see the sun.
Results have been variable, following the cold dry early spring and the wet start to the summer, exacerbated by an explosion of disease in some areas and a lack of sunlight during grain fill.
It’s not the ideal season to be judging relative performance of varieties, with results turned on their head in trials up and down the country. However, yields in the main appear to have held up reasonably well on farm, and current prices will help shore up margins.
We talked to several growers to see how they have fared.
Wheat yields have been trimmed this season at PC Tinsley’s Hurn Hall Farm, near Holbeach in Lincolnshire.
“Crops looked as good as they have done for long time, nice and even and all standing,” says director Martin Cook.
“But yields are not happening to the extent we expected or wanted, which seems to be a problem in this part of the country. I think the poor weather at the end of June and early July has been the main problem – wet weather from May onwards is never good for us, as the silts cope much better in the dry.”
“It’s a bit different to last year when crops had torrid time but produced yield from nowhere.”
Yields on the grade one silty loams are generally coming in around the five-year average of 10t/ha – the farm grows quite a few second wheats plus drill into November after roots.
The 18ha block of RGT Saki, drilled after potatoes on 9 October and grown for seed, was in line with that figure, despite high disease pressure in early summer, which hit many varieties across the UK this season.
“Local untreated trials went from almost clean to covered in few days,” says Martin. “In hindsight, our T2 wasn’t robust enough. I suspect Septoria was bubbling way in May and June but didn’t show. Then we had 70mm of rain in June and almost as much in July.
Last year his RGT Saki looked average at best, but yielded 11.5t/ha, the farm’s best performer. “It is at the top end when it comes to vigour – it seems to tiller out very well and looks to be very competitive.
“We will grow it again. It out-performed expectation last year and this year gave a solid 10 t/ha, which could been much more given better weather or management!”
Andrew Cawood’s wheats yielded well overall in Yorkshire, thanks to a drier and sunnier end to the season than many crops in the south and east had to endure.
The figures at Burley House Farm, South Milford are exceeding the 10t/ha budget for first wheats. His 23ha of RGT Saki was combi-drilled on 19 September after a pass with the TopDown, followed oilseed rape at 292 seeds/sq m.
“Anything that went in well to soil that was loosened and well drained has done well, and the Saki looked good throughout. We deliberately started earlier last year after two very wet autumns and it seems to have paid off.”
The crop averaged 11t/ha. “It’s very pleasing – everyone in the area seems to be having a good harvest.”
Skewing nitrogen application later in the season has helped. “It was cold and dry early on so we held off, and backloaded the N, putting 60kg/ha on in the last split,” says Andrew.
“We had more rain then and it helped keep crops growing, and they seem to have finished well. We should make some good money this year.”
He is growing RAGT wheats exclusively this coming season. RGT Saki and RGT Gravity will feature again, as will RGT Bairstow, a new high-yielding feed wheat with excellent disease resistance.
RGT Saki has delivered above-average yields for JP Mason & Sons, ranging from 4.,2 to 4.35t/ha across 48ha. Half was sown on 10 September after oilseed rape, the rest 10 days later after beans.
“We aim for 10t/ha,” says partner Stephen Mason. “We’ve had a pretty good harvest and the Saki has been towards the top end.”
The crop stayed fairly clean, despite a relatively modest fungicide spend. “It was cold early on and crops were scorched enough, so we omitted a T0, and we cut back on T1 because it very dry.
“By T2 we had some showers and there was rain in the forecast, so we applied 1.25 litres/ha of Adexar. The crop stayed fairly clean, and we applied 0.5litres/ha of tebuconazole + Amistar at T3.”
Stephen plans to grow more RGT Saki next autumn, upping the area to help spread the harvest. “Being a bit later than other wheats it helps take the pressure off if we get delayed, as it is less likely to be overripe when we do get to cut it.
“There is also a good market for straw in this area, and crops get too fit the straw smashes up. We haven’t seen that problem with Saki, which is another good reason to be growing more.”