THINK CAREFULLY about crop marketing and beware of the risk of crops not making the grade, milling wheat growers have been warned.

Weather problems last harvest highlighted the risks associated with growing for quality markets, said Mike Jeffes, from Masstock‘s Throws Farm.

“For most growers, 2004 was not a good harvest. There is a lack of milling wheat because many growers missed the grade.”

But while the area of Group 1 varieties sown this year has fallen from around 15 to 12% of total winter wheat plantings, there is still a large area of quality varieties in the ground, he said.

Group 2 varieties now account for around 24% of the market – up from 19% last year, he said, urging growers to start locally when marketing these crops.

“Millers may well be short of good quality Class one milling samples. If you have a mill on your doorstep, it may well be worth aiming to get a 13% protein content out of your Einstein.

“If you have an export facility nearby, aiming for an 11-12.5% protein, 250 Hagberg, 76kg/hl sample may make more sense,” he said.

While the effect of the weather can never be ruled out, ensuring good crop nutrient supply throughout the season is vital to meeting quality criteria, he noted.

“Nitrogen applications should focus on the developing ear, rather than tissue growth. So don‘t apply too much until stem development is underway.”

Growers should ask themselves whether the extra cost and effort needed to supply quality markets outweighs the risk of not receiving any premium, Mr Jeffes concluded.