GIVEN such a tumultuous year, will this autumn’s harvest be one to blot from memory as farmers look ahead to the new season, asks Darren Owers, regional head of agriculture for Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank?

From an arable farmer’s perspective, the 2020 harvest is probably one to forget. With the wettest autumn in many years inhibiting ground conditions for planting, and then spring only offering a brief window for spring sowing to make up the deficit – it was never going to be a particularly memorable harvest.

Farmers are now turning towards the new cycle with the hope that this first year of the new decade will finally be behind them. Displaying typical resilience and determination to get on with the job in hand, crops are now largely harvested and farmers are now looking forward to a new cropping year. The Yorkshire Bank agricultural team has been reviewing how their area has performed.

Darren Owers, Regional Head of Agriculture for the North of England & Yorkshire, reports that on his patch, some in the agricultural sector cannot remember a year with so many challenging weather conditions. Yet, with cycles a feature of cultivating, farmers are relieved to see that soils seem to be in excellent condition to establish and enable an early start for next year’s crops.

“Although it has been a year to forget, there has been some good news. Where the winter drilled crops were established and not flooded, yields are average, and because the early conditions were good, many of the winter crops were harvested at low moisture with minimal requirement for drying.

“Despite the tough drought conditions we experienced in the early part of the season, the Spring drilled crops actually yielded better than expected, and it was the deterioration in weather during harvest that impacted grain quality. This harvest has also brought clarity for many farmers, who have concluded that that Oil Seed Rape is no longer a viable crop.”

Darren Owers concludes with his final insights: “Farmers are now busy planting for next year and hopefully the autumn will allow for a more ‘business as usual’ approach. Now would be a good time for farming enterprises to update financial projections and establish working capital requirements for the year ahead. There are certainly plenty of potential challenges with Covid-19 and wondering what any Brexit trade deal might look like or changes to farming support payments. Yet, as usual, farmers will keep working to produce high quality produce at incredible value for money – it’s what they do.”