Neil White, of Greenknowe farm near Duns in the Borders, has kicked off this year’s harvest with 20 acres of winter barley.

In his one-year-old Claas 5500 with a 770 convio belt fed header, Mr White was keen to get his combine out to start the season.

“We got started on Tuesday and I would think the yield would be about average,” said the all-arable-farmer. Mr White was cutting the winter barley variety Pearl which he estimates will yield around 3.5t/acre. The crop was not desiccated as he finds being an older variety it ripens more evenly. The barley is destined for Simpsons malt in Berwick, with the straw being baled and sent to livestock farmers in the west. The straw was a little soft in the bout so will be left for a couple of days to dry before baling into large square bales.

Despite soaring temperature, the grain moisture level was around 17-18%, which means it will get once through the drier to bring the crop to the right spec for sale. Mr White was slightly surprised at that level saying: “When you look on social media and all through England, they are cutting at 12-13% moisture, so I thought we might be lower. But I wanted to get everything going, so we cut around a quarter of the winter barley we have.”

The winter barley was direct drilled after spring barley on September 13 last year, at a variable seed rate using a Muzuri machine. The field will now be drilled with oilseed rape for harvest 2023.

The full harvest will be long at Greenknowe, with oilseed rape, spring oats, spring barley, wheat and finally spring beans all to be combined. Mr White said: “Last year we cut about 850 acres which includes 200 acres for other farmers. We were finished up with the beans by mid September. The way this season is looking I would expect to do the same.”

Read more: The Gleaner: It's all down to the weather now before harvest

On the team are Mr White himself and a seasonal worker who has been helping at harvest for over 25 years. Mr White said he has never seen the crops looking so well in the area: “I think we are fortunate we are on good ground here” he admitted. “It is not really heavy ground, but has enough to it to get through the dry spell we had, without any bother. The sunshine is bringing crops to ripen and filling out the grains. I don’t think I have seen the fields looking better. I am very optimistic for the harvest.”

As to his thoughts on the cereal markets and the price this harvest, he commented: “Your guess is as good as mine. Everyone is well informed nowadays and will be able to watch the market themselves. But the crux of it is, no-one knows where the market is going.”

When The Scottish Farmer contacted grain merchants, they commented that they have never seen such volatility in the market at this time of year. Prices are being changed by the hour as the wheat futures market swings £10-£20/t in 24 hours. At the time of printing, wheat was around £290/t but markets are moving fast. Merchants will offer a price on the phone in the morning and it can be changed if farmers leave it until after lunch to accept. The war in Ukraine, dry weather conditions in America and Europe, and global inflation are making market predictions near impossible.