It is normal that the poorest crops tend to be harvested first when winter barley harvest begins.

This has certainly been the case this year, but there are still occasional reports of very poor crops happening, but perhaps that is mainly from growers who have only just started cutting.

The yield spread continues, with reports from individual crop from down close to 2t/ac up to 4.5t/ac.

A week ago, most crops seemed to be in the 3t to 3.5t/ac range, but now it would seem that this has moved up to the 3.5t to 4.0t/ac bracket. But most growers still had some share of lower-yielding crops.

On balance, yield trends seem to have improved as the harvest progressed. However, small grains are reported all over the country and this was reflected in lower specific weights, which were often down in the low 60s and even lower.

However, as yields improved so have specific weights, with many recent reports from 65 to 70kph and even up to 75kph.

Grain yields variable but improving

Harvesting is under way on winter barley up and down the country at this point. Some growers only got going since last weekend, so there are still poor crops being harvested. Poor means yields below 3.0t/ac, but there are also reports below 2.5t/ac.

Winter barley yields have been quite variable to date but the trend seems upwards now. \ Donal O' Leary

There are some growers already finished harvesting winter barley, with an average yield of below 3.0t/ac. There are also now many good yields at over 4.0t/ac and up to 4.5t/ac at low moistures.

Issues with virus infection had been very pronounced during the growing season and it seems that they contributed significantly to the poor performance in some crops. But it does not seem to be the only case of yield variability.

Many growers report that their highest yields came from safer slots in the rotation and that continuous barley fields were disappointing. But this is not a universal finding observation, as some crops in good rotational slots also disappointed.

There have been many references to the impact of take-all on crops this year, with visible take-all blamed for early maturity and poor grain fill.

This would certainly be an issue where it occurred, but it is also likely that the presence of take-all can be predisposed by virus infection and place in the rotation.

Some growers who used latitude seed dressing have reported good yields, but perhaps others had opposite experiences.

Early drilling

It is also important to remember that take-all infection and damage is heavily influenced by planting date, with early being negative.

Early drilling in itself has also been associated with disappointing yields. This could be BYDV or take-all related, but it could also be that these crops used up all the available nutrition in the soil while still needing to grow in the mild backend.

Had the backend not been so mild for so long, this potential negative could have been a positive.

Rotation is equally a factor with winter barley yield potential as it is for wheat. That is some combination of root and soil health, access to nutrients and possibly a more open soil structure that facilitates better root growth in the barley crop. An example of the implications of rotation can be seen in the picture at the top of this story.

There are some comments made about varieties, but it is not possible to compare comments at this stage.

There are a range of comments on Joyau, but mainly positive, with some very good yields. I have no clear indication of two- versus six-row varieties yet either, but there are certainly many good two-row crops.

There are also some comments made regarding P and K application, or the lack of it. You would need to have results from a lot of different fields and slots in rotation to begin to compare that, so I can only report that the comment was made.

Straw yields

Reports on straw yields suggest that they are back a bit. I hear numbers between 11 and 15 bales per acre, but it could be that there is more straw going into bales because of the low moisture levels and heat.

There were reports all year of crops being a bit thin, but these would normally give lower yield of high-quality grain and less straw.

But this does not seem to be the case, as straw volumes seem relatively good, but grain fill is often poor. This hints to a grain fill issue for poorer crops, such as virus, take-all or drought issues.

Other crops

It seems likely that combines will move into winter oilseed rape and winter oats this week. Meanwhile, all other crops are maturing rapidly in the heat and hopefully yield will benefit from the same heat.