Harvest fails to hit heights predicted as weather bites

As many farmers in later growing areas might have predicted, Scotland’s cereal harvest was not the record-breaker painted in early official statistics – and overall barley production dropped by 9 per cent.

Scotland saw a record wheat harvest, at one million tonnes
Scotland saw a record wheat harvest, at one million tonnes

Final cereal harvest estimates, released this week, show that Scotland’s 2015 cereal harvest did not produce the bumper crop expected – and that overall yields were actually 5 per cent lower than was first thought.

While initial estimates from October suggested 2015 would see the best cereal harvest in 20 years in terms of yields, final estimates released this week of the 2015 Scottish cereal and oilseed rape harvest – derived from the annual cereal production survey and released by Scotland’s chief statistician – show yields were largely unchanged on the year.

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The 2015 harvest was late to start and, once under way, was halted several times by poor weather conditions, a fact which resulted in more fields being whole-cropped than usual.

There was also a 4 per cent drop in the area of cereals planted – most likely to be due to the crop diversification rules of the new common agricultural policy (CAP). The official figures showed that, as a result, total cereal production had fallen by 4 per cent to 3.1 million tonnes, chiefly made up of almost two million tonnes of barley and one million tonnes of wheat.

The new estimates put average overall yield for Scottish cereals at seven tonnes per hectare. While yields remained high compared to those of the last 20 years, they were not as high as previously expected, admitted the statisticians, who said: “While yield estimates have fallen, the size of the revision is not unusual. There is a typical variation between early and final harvest estimates of around 5 per cent.”

Cereal yields ranged from 5.9 for spring barley to 9.3 for wheat. Oilseed rape yields were estimated at an average of 4.1 tonnes per hectare.

“The longer term trend of improving yields continues,” said the report, “with the average cereal yield for the last ten years seven per cent higher than in the previous decade.”

Scotland’s largest cereal crop, spring barley, saw a 9 per cent fall over the year, to 1.5 million tonnes. There was also reduced production for oats, which fell to 152,000 tonnes.

However, across the board, wheat, winter barley and oilseed rape production had increased on the year. Wheat production was estimated at one million tonnes, the highest wheat production on record, while 406,000 tonnes of winter barley were produced and 148,000 tonnes of oilseed rape.