July and August for us here at Wold Top mean harvest and currently that entails checking the crops daily to see how they are ripening and constantly monitoring the weather forecast!
It’s been one of the wettest Julys we’ve seen (as we’re sure you’ve experienced too!) so we managed to get our winter barley harvested between showers last weekend but the wheat is still waiting and the spring barley fields are a way off being ready yet.
For the barley harvest, (both spring and winter), what we are looking for are ears of corn with lots of tightly packed grains. These should be firm to the touch but not so dry and hard that they will fall from the head onto the ground below.
Farmers talk about harvest in terms of moisture and yield. A crop of barley should ideally be harvested at a moisture level of less than 16-18%. Most grain merchants would look to buy in grain at around 12-13% moisture which is the aim, but the British weather often means farmers have to take their opportunities where they can and then use drying machines to dry the grains down once they’re brought in from the field. A harvest without having to use the dryer shed is a rare one - we can’t imagine we’re not going to have to use it this year!
Yield is the amount of grains per tonne that the combine collects. A good growing year can give yields of four to five tonnes per acre whereas a bad year might only produce yields of two to three tonnes per acre.Whatever happens, it will still make lots of tasty beer and whisky!