WHEAT OUTPUT was higher than last year, but quality struggled in a difficult year, according to the latest harvest estimates from the National Farmers Union.

Higher yield and an increased planted area put the national wheat crop 10% above 2003 at 15.8m tonnes this season, but poor weather has significantly affected quality the survey shows.

“It‘s a credit to the whole farming industry to achieve these sort of figures, particularly in the North East and East Midlands where atrocious August conditions made it very difficult for farmers,” said NFU Vice President Meurig Raymond.

Although yields are up, there are still many issues with quality Mr Raymond acknowledged. This has led to feed wheat prices falling to levels not seen since the mid-70‘s he said.

“The biggest challenge for the UK is to market all of this feed wheat.”

He still believes there is enough quality wheat in the market place to satisfy the domestic market this season.

Commenting on the current debate surrounding pink grains and their association with mycotoxins in wheat, Chief Arable Advisor, Paul Ibbott advises growers to talk closely with their grain buyers.

“If you suspect you have a problem with your grain, talk to the people you are dealing with first. It has only cost you money once the load has been rejected.”

The uncertainty around pink grains highlights the need for testing grain in store and building better relationships with the whole supply chain, he believes.

Barley and oilseed rape were also covered in the survey.

Barley‘s declining popularity continued across the UK, as production of winter sown crops fell by 7.7% and spring sown crops by 6.4%.

“Barley hasn‘t been a profitable crop for the last few years, therefore a large number of growers have looked to alternatives,” Mr Raymond said.

Oilseed rape production declined by over 13%, due to a reduced area, together with lower yields as a consequence of the very dry conditions last autumn, he noted.