The harvest of 2017 is one that most farmers (if not all) will remember as a very difficult year.
Harvest started in early July and as I write (10th October) still continues in the north of England and Scotland in what can only be described as dreadful conditions.
The season got off to a very early start with Winter Barleys dying from drought in Suffolk. But the hot sunny conditions came to an abrupt end in mid July, when the summer rains set in. The following 6 weeks were decidedly damp. There were many localised and heavy storms as well as more general and heavy rain. Harvest proceeded in a spate of fits and starts, grabbing whatever crop was dry in the rare opportunities presented by the few sunny days.
August actually had more or less average rainfall in the east of England. The problem was the number of wet days and the lack of dry days between them.
Here at Fullers Hill harvest started on July 31st with a crop of milling wheat. This was cut wet and immediately moved off the farm for drying and storage at Camgrain Stores Ltd. This is a farmer owned co-operative that stores over 500,000 of crop from East Anglia and Central England. The wet harvesting conditions continued throughout the first fortnight of August. There was a brief spell of dry weather from the 12th to 15th. This allowed a small area to be cut dry. Our wheat harvest was completed during this spell, but the quality of some crops had been lost.
Following the wheat was the Bean crop. Both winter sown and spring sown. The Winter Beans were very good and the Spring Beans poor as they were severely affected by the spring drought and very high temperatures in June.
This just left our Linseed. This was cut in early September and completed on the 7th. That day was the final day of good reliable weather. Since then there would have not been a good opportunity to have cut the crop. So we completed harvest 2017 with little to spare.
Others have not been so lucky. Within a very short distance of Fullers Hill there are still crops to harvest. Uncut fields of wheat are now totally ruined. Linseed across East Anglia remans in the fields, as do novelty crops such as Soya.
Elsewhere, I have seen awful images of harvest in the north of England. Here the weather has been dreadful without 2 consecutive dry days for over 2 months. But there seems to always to be an opposite. In Essex, on the coastal marshes, September brought a mere 26mm of rain and farmers there are struggling to get their newly sown crops to grow.
The season does provide opportunities within the market. Millers are struggling to source enough wheat that is of good enough quality. This is boasting premiums and the daily supply and demand is creating shorts within the market so that cause a swing in price of £8 per ton. Straw is also a very scarce commodity. In wet harvest conditions arable farmers tend to chop their straw, as the extra trafficking of the balers and straw carts damage the soil and reduce the potential yield of the next crop. Barely 40% of the normal quantity of straw was baled. The price has increased accordingly, hitting the hard pressed farmers in the north and west particularly badly, as that is where the weather has been at its worse and where the straw is used.
Here at Fullers Hill, the difficult conditions have continued with many rain days in September slowing the progress of cultivations and planting of the next crop.