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Harvest is weak but not totally lost

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: September 27, 2012

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THE barley in a field near Chittlehampton looked a bit uninspiring as the harvester approached.

The stalks were lying down, more grey than golden in the late September sunshine.

But as the machinery roared into action it was soon clear to Ivan Gay, in the cab of the combine, that all was far from lost. Slowly but surely grain began filling his trailer as the forks lifted up the stalks for cutting.

"I was quite surprised," said the 44-year-old farmer and contractor. "At first it didn't look like the barley you expect, standing upright in the field. I thought I'd see a carpet of ears on the floor.

"It was a good example of what the weather does to it in the kind of year we've had. But then it turned out clean."

All over the country machines have been struggling to bring in a later and weaker harvest of wheat and barley than the countryside has seen for many years.

And several experts are remarking on how low the quantity and quality has been, with some reckoning on just 60 per cent of normal with large acreages so wet it was simply being crimped and clamped into feed for the cattle this winter.

Mr Gay, who planted 190 acres of barley and another 125 of wheat, was able to finish his harvest in good time although the crops have not achieved their full growth.

He said: "The percentage was at least 25 per cent down on yield from a normal crop. And the quality of the grain is poorer than the standard 72 kilos per hectolitre. A lot has been down in the 60s.

"It's all a bit light, small and shrivelled because it's had no sun apart from a week at the end of July."

The yield is lower than in 2008, which he believes was actually worse for weather.

He said: "That August 2008 was extremely wet with a lot more rain than this year.

"The crop yields weren't too bad but it was the way the grain sprouted that was the trouble."

Mr Gay farms with his brother, Roger, and their parents at Parsonage Farm, George Nympton, near South Molton, with 400 beef cattle.

"Our grazing silage was quite a bit down so we're going to have to feed quite a bit of cereal straw this winter."

It will mean they will need to keep more cereals on farm instead of selling it and as a result, said Ivan, there's bound to be some effect on the bottom line of the business.

Beef farmer David Verney at Bishops Nympton described the effect on his wheat as "pretty disastrous".

He said: "Yield was down, quality was down and it was so wet some of the grain had germinated in the ear. It's not the proteins that will be lacking in feed, but the energy. But we'll find another way round it."

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