Recent wet weather could cause problems for shoots planned for early September with shoot owners in many parts of the country facing the prospect of choosing between harvesting their wheat too early or releasing partridges into standing corn.
In 2008 wet weather delayed the harvest causing many shoots to have to cancel days.
Ian Lindsay, GWCT advisor for the Midlands and Wales, said: “It is a point of concern because of the hit taken two years ago. The picture is patchy. Some areas in the south have got all their wheat off but up here though much of the barley’s been harvested there’s a hell of a lot of wheat still standing. With most partridge shoots starting towards the middle of September it really depends on what happens in the next two weeks. A few days of dry weather and it’ll be fine but it’s in the hands of the gods.”
Recent unsettled weather has meant moisture levels in wheat are high.
If the grain is harvested before it has had a chance to dry out naturally it will have to be heated at considerable expense before it is stored.
If farmers decided to delay the harvest, shoot managers who have days booked in for early September will have to cancel or run the risk of releasing partridges into the crops where they are more vulnerable to foxes and harder to drive.
The birds can disperse more easily in standing corn and beaters will inevitably do damage to crops by beating through them.
Robert Hitchings, of Gurston Down Shoot, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, has managed to get his harvest in early but he said that other shoots near him had not been as fortunate, “I’ve even seen people combining in the rain. We just haven’t had the days to get the wheat off.”