Early Harvest Underway
Crops have been ripening very quickly in the hot dry weather and harvest has started on many farms. Winter barley was cut before the end of June in Suffolk, the earliest ever, and initial reports of yield have been reasonably good. Farmers are warned to cut oilseed rape at night to avoid penalties for the seed being too dry and too warm for crushing. It remains to be seen if the hot sun induced ripening of winter wheat in particular has any impact on yield and quality.
Inflation Pressures Easing?
Some economists are suggesting that inflationary pressures are easing and that the headline rate will fall sharply over the winter after peaking in the autumn. They base this on the world price of many commodities falling including oil but, significantly, not gas. Certainly the price of wheat has come back £100 per tonne from a peak of almost £340 on the expectation that some exports from Ukraine will become possible. However, with record gas prices, the cost of fertiliser is unlikely to fall significantly, especially as the plant at Ince in Cheshire remains closed.
Dried up Pastures
Grazing livestock farmers are becoming concerned about the dearth of grass growth. There has been limited regrowth after first cut silage and forage maize is struggling on thin chalky soil. Crops through which I walk my dogs vary between ankle and head height depending on the chalk content of the soil and the availability of moisture. Nearby young stock are grazing in fields that more resemble the colour of the ripening wheat. The farmer has cut some of that winter wheat for whole crop silage, presumably to ensure sufficient winter forage for the dairy cows.
In record temperatures and no sign of significant rain, at least in Southern England, there is an increasing risk of wild fires. Already there have been reports from several counties of grass and arable crops catching fire, including a huge blaze near Ripon in Yorkshire. Fire brigades are urging people visiting the countryside not to bring portable barbecues and to be very careful with cigarette butts.