The grain harvest
Arable farmers in the Westcountry are fighting a losing battle to save what remains of the 2012 main grain harvest.
Intermittent heavy rain has seen the big combines dodging the storms – but as soon as there is a window of opportunity to get the machines rolling, given sufficient time for the corn to dry a little, another damaging squall comes along.
"It's been a war of attrition against the elements," said Cornish farmer Mike Hambly, chairman of the South West Regional Arable Sector Board.
"I really cannot think of any bright spot throughout the whole business."
He had just finished harvesting oats on his land at Callington, and admitted to being very despondent.
"A very poor year all round," he said. "Yields are down for all crops, and now there are signs that standing wheat is starting to sprout."
In a dry phase last week farmers managed to get in two days of combining before another 13mm of rain fell overnight.
Not only was the grain wet and disappointing, but straw was soaked too.
"There's a joke doing the rounds about a new farming experiment: washing the straw before you bale it," Mr Hambly added.
"But though the damage is done, it is beginning to have a knock-on effect, because by now many farmers would normally be thinking about getting out and drilling their oilseed rape for next year.
We would all like a fortnight of sun now, if only to cheer us up."
The harvest was certainly as bad as that of 2008, which was notorious, reported Ian Davies, grain-store manager at the Kernow Grain depot at Lanivet, near Bodmin.
"Apart from some early winter barley, all grain has needed the drier – and quite frankly some has not been fit even for that," he said.
Yields had been very disappointing, with very light returns on winter-sown malting barley.
Spring-sown crops were beginning to appear at the big silos, but variation in barley quality had been enormous, he said.
There had been some very good-quality grain from the Perranwell and Lanner areas, but some from the Roseland was "very poor indeed".
Wheat results had varied between disappointing and disastrous, said Mr Davies.
The best bushel-weight had a reading of 65, where the base line for even feed wheat was 70.
Meanwhile, oat-crop quality varied from fair to diabolical. "It's hard to be upbeat about it," he added.
"You have to feel sympathy for these farmers, as yields are right down.
If we had a fortnight of fine weather it would at least allow them to get on the fields to salvage something."
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