Caution as preliminary harvest figures hit 20-year high

A Combine Harvester makes it's way along a field of Wheat in East Norton in Leicestershire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday July 6, 2011. A new map which shows all the different habitats across the UK has revealed half the country's land is used for crops or pasture. The land cover map, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, used satellite images and digital mapping data to plot what habitat is found in 25 metre square sections across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The map showed the UK is comprised mainly of arable and horticultural land, which accounts for a quarter of all land, and 'improved grassland', which is managed for pasture, silage or recreation and makes up another 25% of the country. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Land. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
A Combine Harvester makes it's way along a field of Wheat in East Norton in Leicestershire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday July 6, 2011. A new map which shows all the different habitats across the UK has revealed half the country's land is used for crops or pasture. The land cover map, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, used satellite images and digital mapping data to plot what habitat is found in 25 metre square sections across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The map showed the UK is comprised mainly of arable and horticultural land, which accounts for a quarter of all land, and 'improved grassland', which is managed for pasture, silage or recreation and makes up another 25% of the country. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Land. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

LATEST figures put this year’s harvest as the best in 20 years.

Scotland’s chief statistician estimates yields of cereal and oilseed rape are the highest since 1991, despite the wet weather and late harvest.

But NFU Scotland’s press manager Sarah Anderson cautioned: “While the results of this survey are good, the full picture of Scotland’s harvest is yet to emerge.

“This year’s harvest took place in extraordinarily difficult circumstances and many have yet to finish; for farmers whose harvest is incomplete, the yield may well drop and some may yet have to abandon as the ground is simply too wet.

“In addition, the high yield reports hide the cost of bringing in a very wet crop and drying it. On top of that, the many people who did not manage to finish their harvest in good time will have been late in sowing crops for next year.”

The key trends between last year and this year suggest cereal production has increased by 346,000 tonnes (12.7 per cent) to 3.1 million tonnes, the next nearest since 1991 being 2008 with average yields up by 7.5 per cent.

Commenting on the first estimate, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead MSP said: “It appears that the last gasp of summer has saved the harvest and in particular, it is heartening to see average cereal yields increase by 7.5 per cent to 6.9 tonnes per hectare – the highest level in 20 years.

“I appreciate it is not all good news for farmers, with the high moisture content leading to increased production costs and the delayed harvest leading to operational challenges.

“However it is not the disaster we feared and compared to the rest of the UK, Scotland has seen greater increases in cereal, wheat and oilseed rape production which are to be welcomed.”

The initial figures put wheat production up by 66,000 tonnes (7.2 per cent) to 984,000 tonnes, barley by 284,000 tonnes (17 per cent) to 1,949,000 tonnes, oilseed rape up by 41,000 tonnes (34.0 per cent) to 163,000 tonnes but oats down by 3,000 tonnes (2.3 per cent) to 132,000 tonnes.

Final estimates of the 2011 cereal harvest are expected in December.