AS THE farming nation battens down the hatches for the forthcoming brickbats that will surely be aimed at it from the climate change conference, COP26, in Glasgow – which started this weekend – it's pertinent to reflect that in 'climate' terms, it has been a good summer for agriculture in Scotland.

A harvest has largely been gathered in with minimal effort, weather delay and the frustration of mechanical breakdown due to handling wet crops. Also, unusually few calories were expended in drying it to hit spec' – so what's not to like, given that prices are also sitting at a stable and relatively high level?

As ever, the problem will lie in that stability being continued so that even the most rudimentary of fag-packet calculations can be done for harvest 2022. Whilst there is undoubted uncertainty with regard to future fertiliser supplies and other inputs – including some eye-watering prices being quoted – there is little doubt that a bullish end-market can help maintain some sort of order.

The good news is, the grain market looks set to remain fairly stable at least until the middle of next year, when the inevitable global harvest 'forecasts' start to appear. So that give's plenty of time to plan then? ... well it would be if anyone knew whether crucial supplies of fert and other inputs are even going to be available, never mind the price they might reach. One thing is certain, the days of sub-£200 per tonne fertiliser have disappeared up the Gazprom pipeline as the Russians make hay from their dominance in supplying the West with gas!

A likely trigger point that is emerging will be that any remaining wheat that might yet be in a bag awaiting sowing, will in all likelihood probably stay there. That's because pundits are already predicting a big switch to spring barley for next year across the UK. That's mainly due to the fact that it is a less 'hungry' crop, but also that there's some enticing jostling going on behind the scenes to secure malting barley supplies for next autumn from the trade.

It's been a while since such sabre-rattling between merchants worked in favour of the primary producer, but with premiums of £50 per tonne over feed already mooted for some forward contracts, it's bound to attract a bit of attention, not only in Scotland, but across the rest of the UK. So, could we see a benchmark figure of £250-plus per tonne for top quality spring barley next year?Any answer should be tempered by the fact that if everyone piles into spring barley, then more will be available ... and we know where that will end up.

Certainly, though, any crop that does not gobble up fertiliser and yet still get a fair return from the market, will be looked at with increasing interest from farmers. Could that also mean a revival for spring oilseed rape, linseed and other speciality crops next year?

Time will tell, but for sure spring barley could be THE crop for 2022. Cinderella ... you shall go to the ball!