Great Britain’s harvest lacking pace; unsettled weather posing problems

17-08 | |
Photo: Canva
Photo: Canva

Unsettled weather and the lack of prolonged dry spells is causing issues for this year’s harvest across Great Britain.

Although winter wheat, winter barley, spring barley, oat and winter oilseed rape harvesting is underway, progress has been slow and overall crop quality and yields variable.

Winter wheat

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) reported on 8 August that just 5% of the GB winter wheat had been harvested, which is well below the 5-year average of 36% normally completed by this stage in the season. There has been no harvesting in Scotland or the North East of England, while rates are higher in the West Midlands (15%).

Early indications are that winter wheat yields are around the 5-year average, but at this point in the season, volume of processed samples is low and quality data therefore is at a premium. The average grain moisture if around 16.8%, and in some regions most crops have reportedly needed drying.

Winter barley

On the other hand, harvesting of winter barley is now nearly complete (94%), which is in line with the 5 year average. Yields are on a par with the GB average estimated between 6.8 and 7.2 t/ha. Lower yields have been seen on lighter soils, which previously suffered from water stress, across most regions.

Olivia Bonser, AHDB cereals and oilseeds analyst, said specific winter barley weights had been quite variable, with the GB average between 62-64 kg/hl. Screenings are currently low, ranging from between 2-4% on farm. Early nitrogen indications range between 1.5-1.7% though data again is limited.

Spring barley

Just 5% of the GB spring barley area has so far been harvested – believe to be 11% of the 5 year average – with just the earliest sown crops harvested. Crops planted in March and April should be ready for harvest in the coming weeks.

The eastern region has fared better with 20% cut but in Scotland, Wales, the North West and the far North East harvest has yet to start. In terms of yield indications, the current GB average is 5.2-5.8t/ha with reasonable nitrogen content.

Winter oilseed rape

Around ¾ of the oats crops has been harvested – down from 95% cut by this time last year and below the 5 year 80% rate. Harvesting has started in all areas but is sporadic in Scotland.

However, yields have been poor, down from the average 3.3t/ha over the 2018-2022 period to just 2.7-3t/ha. This has been due to inclement weather, pigeon and pest damage and smaller seed sizes due to high temperatures in early June. Oil content in GB is currently averaging 43-45%.


Oat harvesting is also lower than normal with just 5% cut, compared with the 5-year average of 23%. All regions, except Yorkshire, have started harvesting with Wales the most advanced (20%). The GB average yield is currently between 4.9-5.5t/ha with most needing drying. The GB average moisture content currently is between 16-18%.

Tony McDougal Freelance Journalist
More about