Arable farmers across the length and breadth of the country have reported favourable conditions for this year’s harvest, which has led to many regions finishing much earlier than usual.

Grain prices have been strong across the board and drying costs have generally been down with many farmers reporting some of the lowest moisture levels they have ever experienced – many areas cutting at much lower than 20%.

Straw yields have been mixed and the long period of dry weather has led to a reduction in silage yields, albeit most growers reporting higher quality.

Read more: Warm weather brings with it an earlier harvest

A rise in input costs has pinched the industry with growers being hit by a hike in fertiliser and diesel prices but also delays in transporting grain, due to lorry diver shortages.

The SF reached out to growers from all over Scotland for an overview on how this year’s harvest has gone.


In the most northern part of Scotland, the mild weather has been a challenge, halting play for some farmers on the island.

When the SF first spoke to Aimee Budge from Bigton Farm in Sandwick, she hadn't yet started this year's harvest.

"We tried to cut our spring barley today (September 13) and got 26% so have decided to leave it for a few more days,” she said. “There has just been no sun here the last few months to ripen it and some of ours has gone flat.

“Weather has been the biggest issue as it's been so mild and misty that the barley hasn't had a chance," she continued, adding that yields are looking normal but grain isn't as full as some years due to the lack of sunshine.

Read more: Scotland expecting a decent but later harvest

As the SF went to press on Wednesday (September 15), Aimee was in touch to say that they had finally managed to start cutting, with barley coming off at 19-22%.


Garry Mathers from Tormiston Farm in Stennes, Orkney, reported that the island is roughly halfway through its harvest.

“It has been pretty straightforward so far,” he said. “The weather has been good to us but the main problem was that our barley wasn’t ready in time, so we now have to hope the good weather continues in the weeks ahead.”

Garry runs his own beef finishing unit but also a busy contracting business on the west side of the island. At home, he has been very pleased with this year’s spring barley crop and has been growing the planet variety.

“We have 100 acres of spring barley and have yielded three tonne an acre and most of it is coming in at under 20% moisture, which is unheard of for Orkney. Normally we would be looking at between 20 and 25,” he explained, adding that they can afford for it to be a bit wetter as all of it is going in to animal feed.

This year he sowed his barley on April 4, as opposed to mid-April and said that they have benefited from a bit of moisture which has given them a better crop.

Silage yields have been lower this year as a result of the dry weather but he said that farmers are pleased with the quality of this year’s crop, reporting good protein levels.

“Most of our baling is up to date and generally has kept up with the combines. Generally, we have been looking at seven or eight bales per acre which we’re happy with."

Despite numerous reports of labour shortages across Scotland, Garry’s operation hasn’t been too badly affected but he said that the general situation on Orkney hasn’t been as easy to find staff and that there are less young folk coming into the sector.


A beautiful evening for combining in Orkney

A beautiful evening for combining in Orkney



Ewan Mackenzie, managing director of W and A Geddes, a local agricultural merchant covering most of Caithness and Sutherland, told The SF that it had been as good a summer and harvest conditions as he could remember, with grain quality some of the best he had witnessed.

“As of today (September 14), 80% of all spring barley in Caithness will have been cut,” he said. “Yields have been decent but not record breaking due to the really hot summer but the quality has been great. I’ve seen some of the heaviest spring barley I’ve ever witnessed, with cuts coming in at 18 to 20%.

“We are also seeing as good a price for feed barley as we’ve seen in recent times, of £155-165 depending on quality, which is up £30 to £40 on last year.

“We grow a big tonnage of oats up here, gluten free oats as well as standard milling oats and are about half way through that harvest. Again, yields have been decent but slightly down due to the hot weather.”

He added that all winter barley will be drilled by the end of this week and that conditions had been perfect. Only a small acreage of winter wheat is grown in the region but that is due to be drilled next week.

Easter Ross

Spring Barley harvest began at Mounteagle Farm in Tain, on August 23.

“The harvest has generally gone smoothly but the mornings were frustratingly damp and misty with a notable lack of wind,” Douglas and Hilarie Russell told the SF. “Most evenings we were stopped by 8.30pm with high moisture readings or too damp straw. Straw, particularly oat straw, took longer than usual to dry before baling,” they continued, adding that straw lorries have accessed the fields without having to be pulled out.

“Yields have been average, but straw yields were substantially down. Grain overall was of good quality for malting with no skinning for a change, but it has been slow to ripen. Winter crops are going into dry and hard seed beds earlier than last year.”


The last load of 2021 Harvest being cut on Monday, September 13, at Mounteagle, Tain, Easter Ross

The last load of 2021 Harvest being cut on Monday, September 13, at Mounteagle



Farm trader with Frontier Agriculture, Murray Green, covers the stretch between Turriff and Banff, buying grain and selling fertiliser.

“Harvest is between 80 and 85% complete across the region,” he reported. “Some 90% of what’s left to go is wheat, but from what I’m hearing, yields are sitting at an average of four tonnes an acre.

“Winter barley has been yielding three to 3.5 tonnes per acre and oilseed rape (OSR) at 1.5 tonnes per acre,” he continued, adding that the price for OSR was higher than he had ever known it, with farmers achieving £480 per tonne or more.

Overall yields have been very good, but they haven’t compared to last year’s ‘exceptional harvest’, according to Murray, but conditions had allowed OSR sowing to complete, with winter barley sowing beginning this week.

“Grain prices have been very strong across the board, malting barley is making £180 per tonne which has improved from £130 last year, and makes up for a reduction in yields,” he continued.

“The problem we are seeing is transporting barley due to the lack of lorry drivers – it has been hard to move stocks. Rejections have also been at a lower percentage than in past years.”

Commenting on the wide-spread reports of increased fertiliser costs, he pointed out that fertiliser costs had risen at an even match to the price of grain.


THE end of the harvest at Grewar Farming, Ardler, Perthshire, as this demonstrator MF Ideal Combine takes out the last crop of wheat at Knollhead Farm (Pic Ron Stephen)

THE end of the harvest at Grewar Farming, Ardler, Perthshire, as this demonstrator MF Ideal Combine takes out the last crop of wheat at Knollhead Farm (Pic Ron Stephen)



Duncan Wilson manages Strathmore Farms in Angus, a mixed beef and arable operation which stretches over 2000 acres. When the SF caught up with Duncan (September 10), he still had 200 acres of wheat and spring oats to go but reported that most of his neighbours on smaller farms were rejoicing having finished early due to the long-periods of dry weather this August.

“It has been a much easier harvest this year with the long periods of dry weather, but 10 days combining in a row takes its toll,” he said, adding that he could do with an early night but isn’t going to complain about the lack of rain.

“The season has been a mixed one due to the variability in the weather over the last few months. May was particularly wet, which took its toll on the spring barley in the heavy ground which got waterlogged and never recovered but in the light ground, it did better than I’ve ever seen it.

“The wet winter has taken a toll on our winter crops; wheat is going to be poor as a result, but we can’t complain as in general we are getting average yields across the board and prices are strong.

“Our drying costs this summer have been minimal, we are averaging 16 to 17% for wheat and that’s a level to get jump up and down excited about,” he laughed, pointing out that he’d normally be happy with anything below 20%.

“We’re anticipating some problems with our spring oats due to the dry ground, half of what we have cut has been affected poorly by the drought.”

The dry weather has had its advantages, and he explained that it has allowed him to crack on with sowing wheat earlier than usual.

“We’ve put more wheat in the ground than I’m comfortable with but when the conditions are right you have to act. Last year anything grown after September 15 was rubbish, so it is better to establish early and get going.”



Johnnie Balfour of Balbirnie Home Farms, near Glenrothes, told the SF that they were all wrapped up with their cereal harvest three-weeks earlier than normal.

“It has been one of the quickest harvests on record,” he said. “None of us can remember finishing by September 8 and that is because we had an incredibly dry August which allowed us to get all the hours in. We have barely had any rain all summer.

“Yields have been fairy poor for our spring barley and spring oats, but a little better for wheat and pretty good for winter oats. We have recorded drier moisture levels than normal, and although we have still dried nearly everything, we aren’t having to dry from as wet a point as usual.

“We got all the silage we needed in our first cut,” he said, explaining that they have recently changed their grazing management to adopt mob grazing systems to improve grass growth.

Looking back on last year’s harvest, he said it was much more like an average year, finishing cereals at the tail-end of September and then not harvesting their last field of beans until early December. This year however, weather permitting, they expect to be getting all their beans in by early October.


Glenrothes pic tbc

Nature friendly farming in action at Balbirnie Home Farms



Jamie Dick, who runs a cereal farm in Falkirk, as well as a land drainage business, told The SF that the quality of this year’s cereals had been one of the highest he'd ever experienced.

“The dry summer and long hours of sunshine has paid dividends to the quality and the amount of crop we have harvested,” he said. “The weather conditions throughout the summer have suited our heavy clay soils.”

On his farm, Drum of Kinnaird, he grows Laureate spring malting barley and he reported that sampling had gone well, meeting all criteria and it was a similar story for his Conway oats, which are sold to Quakers Oats, in Cupar.

Commenting on moisture levels, he added: “I don’t think we have had anything above 20% which is a sign of a very good year. We have been ranging between 15.5% and 18%, whereas normally we would be cutting grain at 20% or higher.

“We are a good 10 days ahead of last year, where we were still harvesting until the end of the month.”

The one negative he reported has been the price of fertiliser and other inputs. “Everything seems to have taken a price hike, machinery parts are dearer and harder to get hold of and as for my drainage work, we have been looking at a 30-40% price rise in plastic pipes,” pointed out Mr Dick.


Stuart Gairns combining sassy spring barley at Lawers Farm, Comrie (Pic: Dave Jack/ space 21 photography)

Stuart Gairns combining sassy spring barley at Lawers Farm, Comrie (Pic: Dave Jack/ space 21 photography)



Harvest 2021 has drawn to a close for Robert Neil, from Upper Nisbet, Jedburgh, who told The SF that it had been a fairly easy harvest all round.

“Our winter barley yields are up on the year, spring barley is half a tonne an acre back and wheat is back a bit, but prices are buoyant,” he said.

“We have had quite a dry season in the Borders and we’re hearing even guys in the West have had it dry! Our moisture levels have been low, yesterday (September 8) we thought we were in the south of England,” he said, adding that his wheat was coming in below 16% which he said has been amazing as normally it has been 18% plus.

With moisture levels down it has kept energy costs reduced for the dryer but he pointed out that everything else has gone up in price, so he hasn’t really noticed the difference.

“Grass growth was phenomenal early in the season which put us in good stead for a strong growing season, giving us plenty forage. We have lots of straw and the quality has been really high.

“Now that we are finished up, we are spreading manure on the ground in preparation to start drilling next week.”

The Scottish Farmer:

Upper Nisbet Farm has reported very low moisture levels with wheat being cut below 16%



Carrabus Farm on Islay has grown barley for the last four years for Bruichladdich Distillery and this year had been growing Laureate.

Moyra Porter, who runs the farm with her son, Alasdair, told the SF that the dry summer hasn’t impacted yields. “The two barley fields were harvested late August into September, at an average moisture of 17.5%, with a yield of 3.7 tonnes per acre,” she said.

“Management of the local geese on Islay has to be closely monitored and managed through various tactics, this year the brightly coloured scarecrows made by the grandchildren helped as the geese can strip a section of barley very quickly overnight,” she continued, adding that cultivating for next year will start in March once the geese have left for the winter.”


SILAGE TIME at Moyra Porters Carrabus farm, Bridgend, Islay, where son and co-owner Alasdair Porter is driving the new McHale Fusion 3 Plus

Silage time at Carrabus farm, where son and co-owner Alasdair Porter is driving the new McHale Fusion 3 Plus



Andrew Welsh of Warnockland Farms, Fenwick, reported a tremendous harvest, with winter barley already in the ground and spring barley yields looking promising in the days of combining ahead.

“Last summer we got to July and the weather became really volatile, but this year it has been steadier and more predictable which has made planning so much easier,” he said.

“Our winter barley started off a bit poor at the beginning of the year. We nearly would have written it off in early April, but it bounced back in May and we got tremendous yields of between 3.5 to 4.2 ton per acre which is well above average,” he continued, adding that his moisture levels have been sitting anywhere between 14 and 16%.

He is waiting for his spring barley to ripen before combining gets fully underway but has already made a start to around nine acres and reported that it is coming in at around three ton per acre.

“Here in Fenwick those yields are crack a bottle of whisky open and celebrate levels,” he laughed.

“The conditions this summer have been tremendous, it is the best we have seen the ground in a good number of years. We already have our winter barely down and couldn’t’ ask for better ploughing and seeding conditions.

“We are a little early to test our silage, but we were early with slurry this year and tried two early nitrogen doses which has made a difference. It gave us a good kick at the start of March and gave us extra yield when a lot of other people were drying out and struggling,” he said.


Fenwick pic tbc

Three-and-a-half year old Emily Welsh checking that silage is up to scratch at Warnockland Farm



Fraser Shaw, of Dryfeholm, Lockerbie, told The SF that he had experienced an 'English' harvest. “We started on July 20 and with six days of continuous sunshine managed to cut 300 acres in one go,” he said, adding that winter barley was 'ginormous' with yields higher than last year.

“Our OSR was looking good but the hot weather pinched it off last minute, so yields were down, however the prices made up for it. We’re looking at around £490 per tonne for OSR, this time last year we were getting £320,” he said.

“We didn’t have to dry much. Some of our barley was coming in at 13% and in the end we only had to dry 10% of our crop, which is unheard of for this part.

“We were done 10 days early, finishing up on August 26. It has been a relatively easy harvest and one which my dad has told me to remember in years to come.”


Mull of Galloway

William McCulloch, of Cardrain – Scotland’s most southerly arable farm – reported an easy harvest made all the better by ‘tremendous weather, good yields and strong prices’.

“We cut our winter barley on July 22 – two weeks earlier than usual – at 3.6 tonnes to the acre, which is as good as I have ever seen it,” he said.

“Our Skyscraper winter wheat yielded 3.6 tonnes per acre when we cut it at the start of September, which for this part of Scotland was really early.”

His wheat and barley have met strong prices, with the former making £200 a ton and the latter going for £160 to £170 a ton. William pointed out that in 2020 his barley was making £130 a ton, so was delighted with the increase.

As well as a strong season for winter oats, which he harvested at three ton to the acre, he also reported exceptional straw yields, which he sells to dairy farms in the region.

“We finished the first week of September, two weeks earlier than usual,” he continued. “It has been a considerably easier year than 2020 thanks to a long dry summer. Last year was much wetter and we worried about getting the combine on the fields but this year we could relax more knowing the good weather was here to stay."

“We had a wet spell in May but it locked in enough moisture in the ground that really suits cereals, so we were able to get a tremendous harvest off the back of it.”

The one negative he pointed out had been the cost of inputs, notably diesel and fertiliser costs which he said will be a worry for all farmers next season.


Mull of Galloway tbc

Scotland's most southerly arable farm, Cardrain Farm, boasts stunning views towards the Irish sea