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Harvest hopes rising after dry spell

SCOTLAND’S CEREAL are set to reap a mixed bag from their sowing efforts, following a year of challenging weather patterns and a harvest which has nonetheless fallen earlier than normal.

With reports of straw shortages Scotland wide, many farmers are choosing to turn their choppers off and bale their winter barley and rape straw instead. The harvest for winter barley has begun much earlier than normal, brought on by the hot dry weather; while the lack of rain has meant drying costs have been minimal.

NFU Scotland’s combinable crops committee chairman Ian Sands, who farms at Balbeggie in Perthshire, commented on the harvest so far: “Although rain has stopped play for the next couple of days, it is great to see harvest progressing around the country.

“In my area, winter barley and most oilseed rape is all cut with average yields matching what I was expecting. We cut some spring barley last week which was better than expected, the quality was good, nitrogen levels high and yields of straw poor,” he stated.

Similarly, harvesting of winter barley is ahead of schedule in parts of Aberdeenshire, East Lothian and Berwickshire, with mixed reports of straw yields. There has been better news for potato growers, with their crop appearing to be developing nicely.

“Tatties are growing remarkably well in the region and have suffered less disease than normal years,” said Lorna Paterson, NFU Scotland’s regional manager for the north-east. “Rain has arrived here now, so this could save the tubers and allow for a stronger yield and bigger tubers.”

Spring barley and winter wheats are ripening well but it is too early to estimate growth. Lorna added: “There are also concerns about secondary growth, but time will tell how this has gone. The crops from wheat and spring barley are certainly shorter so it is predicted that there will be less straw for many from both.”

Sandy Henderson, who farms in Ellon, explained how farmers in his area are responding to the fodder shortages: “This year we have baled oilseed rape straw to use ourselves but also sell to one or two people locally. We would normally chop rape straw,” he continued. “I think in our area this year more people are baling straw than normal, particularly baling oilseed rape straw. We also made hay from our set aside land.”

Berwickshire farmer Neil White reported a successful harvest so far and hoped the rain would hold off a little longer: “Lots of farmers are swathing straw which would normally be chopped, and the early dry start means the baling is going well so far. We say this is like an ‘English’ harvest with very little drying required and hot sunny days, but it could change. The forecast says rain on its way but, if we don’t get too much, the harvest could remain well ahead of schedule,” he hoped.

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit

Source : HeraldScotland

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