Wheat being unloaded by combine auger © Tim Scrivener© Tim Scrivener

Protein levels in wheat this harvest are set to hit a new record high this harvest – according to provisional quality testing of the 2017 national crop.

Some 2,858 wheat samples were taken by the end of August and early indications put the national average wheat protein level at 13.2% – a full 1.1% higher than the three-year average for this stage of harvest.

Millers generally require about 13% protein for wheat to be used for bread making.

See also: Harvest 2017: The 5 top-yielding winter wheat varieties map

While proteins are looking strong this harvest, the wet conditions have hurt Hagberg values, which are an indication of gluten quality.

So far samples taken for the AHDB Cereal Quality Survey show all wheats have an average Hagberg of 259, well below the quality last season and lower even than the washout harvest of 2012.

However, the average of Group 1 samples are above 250, which is the level required to meet the bread wheat specifications.

 

“We are seeing the highest ever average protein level for Great Britain at this stage. However, protein content is a weak indicator of milling and baking quality,” said AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds analyst James Webster.

“We have seen a great deal of variation in Hagberg levels across the wheat crop, with samples ranging from 79 to 432.”

Mr Webster pointed out that the average Hagberg number could fall further still as samples so far are biased towards earlier-harvested areas.

See also: More harvest 2017 news and analysis

Later-harvested regions have been hit harder by summer rainfall, making for a catchy campaign for many growers.

Specific weights are roughly in line with the same point last year, but at 76.8kg/hl they are the lowest since 2012.

Of the Group 1 samples analysed to date, popular variety Crusoe has been most affected by the drop in Hagbergs, falling from 306 in last harvest’s provisional results to 247 this season.