"Near-perfect" weather helped UK farmers achieve their best week for cereal harvesting since at least 2008, reaping nearly half their winter wheat, for which yields have recovered by some 14% from last year.
Growers reaped 1.3m hectares of combinable crops in the week to Tuesday, "the highest rate of clearance in a single week for at least the last five years", crop consultancy Adas said.
The extent of the area cleared - bigger than Qatar, or than the combined area of North Yorkshire, the biggest UK county, and Somerset – reflected a period "when near-perfected harvest weather coincided with peak crop maturity".
During the week, farmers combined 40% of their huge spring barley area, and 45% of winter wheat – enough to take the pace of harvest above five-year average levels despite a start delayed by slow crop development after a cold spring.
The results of the harvest, now some 80% complete overall, show yields above average levels for spring crops and for winter barley, for which the Adas pegged the final yield at 6.9 tonnes per hectare, up 8% on last year's result, which matched the average of 6.4 tonnes per hectare.
"Winter barley crops have yielded well this year, and often better than many had expected," Adas said.
For spring barley, the average yield so far is about 5.5-5.7 tonnes per hectare, a rise of 10% or more from last year, with quality broadly good too.
"The majority of regions are reporting yields to be at or slightly above average, with some bigger increases reported in the South East, Eastern and Yorkshire and Humber regions."
For winter wheat, the most important UK grains crop, the yield is coming in at 7.6-7.7 tonnes per hectare, a result in line with average levels, and up 14% on last year's result, which was affected by relentless rain.
On an area of a little over 1.6m hectares, curtailed by dismally wet autumn planting conditions, that implies a crop of roughly 12.4m tonnes, well above expectations of 11.5m tonnes or less in the spring.
Furthermore, in contrast to last year "good weather over the last week and few harvest delays meant that milling wheat varieties maintained their quality", Adas said.
Hagberg falling numbers, a measure of the sprouting which is encouraged by harvest rains, and which reduces milling quality, remain "above 300 seconds for bread-making varieties, and averaging 294 seconds with group 2 and 3 wheats included".
Winter rapeseed bucked the trend of improving yields, coming in at a five-year low of 3.3 tonnes per hectare, below the average of 3.5 tonnes per hectare.
"Earlier-drilled crops have tended to yield better than the later-drilled crops.
"Many crops suffered from water logging and excessive pigeon damage this year, with many bare patches and weed competition that led to a reduction in yield."
However, the quality of the crop "is relatively good, with no reports of red seed in the samples", easing concerns of crushers such as Archer Daniels Midland, and with oil contents "generally good", at 42-48%.
Early yield results from the spring rapeseed harvest, at 2.3 tonnes per hectare, are above the average of 2.0 tonnes per hectare.
Via Stéphane Bisaillon