Devon Churches Rural Forum

Harvest Happenings 2022

Devon HARVEST 2022: ‘Harvest is past, summer is ended’- Come ye thankful people come

Prepared this year by Professor John Wibberley, with input from farmers and others on the Devon Churches Rural Forum


Preamble: ‘Harvest’ means the main cereal grain harvest – normally from late July to early September, beginning with (if grown) Winter Barley, ending with rarer Spring Wheat. The majority of grains grown are Winter Wheats and Spring Barleys, with smaller amounts of oats, rye and triticale – some triticale for thatching straw. Some still grow dredge (mixed corn with other crops such as oats, barley & vetches) for whole-crop livestock feed. Farmers have contemplated growing more oats – both Winter and Spring varieties – as being cheaper to grow than Winter Barley & more resilient. Non-cereal grain crops include oilseed rape, linseed, field beans & dry peas. Of course, total harvest includes many fruits & vegetables too, many yet to be harvested, plus other familiar crops such as forage maize to be autumn-harvested for ensilage.


This season, the cereal harvest has been early – over before the end of August - with both July and August being very dry, and some Combine fires occurring. Drought affected East Devon & thin soils more severely than good NW Devon yields. Wider SW region yields were good on better land with milling wheats attaining high quality, many malting barleys of high quality too. Drought has necessitated feeding now hay or silage meant for next winter, and with poorer grass regrowths for second and third/fourth-cut silage. It echoes 1975 & ’76 when straw was carted from E.Anglia to Cornwall to feed livestock.


Points for Praise

  • Early harvest in dry conditions, not needing further grain-drying, - now very costly
  • Our FCN Devon Lammas Service held 1st Sunday in August at Berry Pomeroy
  • Generally better yields than expected, although some reporting up to one-third down
  • Generally better grain quality than feared, but some wheats died early, pinched
  • Fewer shed ears such as occurs in delayed harvests, especially with barley
  • Fewer shed ears means less wastage and also less carry-over of pests and diseases
  • Early harvest allows more time if moist for catch crops: forage rape, stubble turnips..
  • Grain prices have increased substantially but much less than arable input costs
  • Many Devon Agricultural Shows with superb efforts to display good livestock etc
  • Devon YFC numbers not only recovering post-covid but substantially increasing
  • Agricultural Chaplaincy work through rural Devon Churches.


Points for Prayer

  • Higher grain prices (+ c.60%) mean increased livestock feed, flour & bread prices
  • Dry mid-summer gap of grass shortages has required early feeding of winter rations
  • Input costs for next year’s crops – notably fertilisers - are up hugely (x 3 or so)
  • Farmers seeking to time their buying and selling decisions wisely, equitably
  • Ukrainian farmers harvesting grain and planning ahead in dire circumstances…
  • Countries much more dependent than we on costly fertiliser and grain imports
  • Agricultural policy-makers and wise governance – with farmers’ advice into it…
  • Farmers changing their systems agro-ecologically to depend less on costly inputs
  • Farmers devising yet more means to add value to their produce & sell directly
  • Consumers valuing home-produced UK food, & farmers prized as food producers
  • Farmers struggling with Avian ’flu threats from SW wild bird populations too
  • Farmers wrestling with ongoing TB in cattle, and diseases in other livestock
  • Farmers adjusting to diminishing Basic Payments & uncertain ELMS replacements
  • That landlords won’t take back too much land from tenants but agree longer tenancies
  • Farming Families needing or beginning to address Farm Succession Planning
  • Farming families struggling with stress of many kinds, and for FCN & others helping.
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