On Monday and Tuesday I and a couple of colleagues went to Suffolk to view the barley crops with some experts from the malting industry and the local farmers who have been giving the crop tender loving care since before Christmas.
With the very strange weather we have had this year – do you remember the drought in March and April that followed another dry winter and then the very wet period up until now, I was unsure of how the crops would be looking.
Generally a dry start can mean that there is less seed growth giving smaller corns or fewer shoots whilst extensive rain will affect the nitrogen levels and increase the risk of moulds and diseases.
We visited two farms on Monday whilst it was still pouring with rain and a further farm on Tuesday when the sun briefly shone.
In all cases the barley corns looked to be a reasonable size and there was no evidence of disease. The farmers were suggesting that the crop should be good but the weather needed to improve and that nothing was guaranteed until the crop was in their barns.
The ideal conditions now would be several days of sun with very little wind. The sun is needed to dry out the barley and hence reduce the risk of any last minute disease or rot and the lack of wind so that the crop cannot be blown over since this makes harvesting very difficult. The other key reason for some dry weather is that the ground is still water logged in many areas and the combine harvesters (which weigh 25 tonnes) are either too heavy to manoeuvre on the very wet ground or will just churn it up too much.
So for the sake of the barley that we need for future brewing (we use approximately 6000 tonnes per year) I would urge you all to keep your fingers crossed that the jet stream will move north leaving us with the warm dry weather conditions that the barley (and us with the summer holidays coming up) needs.
Stewart Tricker - Senior Brewer
P.S For a bit of fun we added the following picture from our visit to facebook if you fancy adding a caption click on the image to be taken to facebook.