Ripe winter wheat ready for harvest© Tim Scrivener

While wheat yields have failed to impress this harvest, quality has held up with the highest protein levels for a decade, according to the provisional results of AHDB’s Cereal Quality Survey.

However, winter barley quality was less positive, with early data indicating a smaller specific weight and grain size than in previous years.

For the 10,166 wheat samples analysed by the end of August, the provisional average protein level was 12.6%.

James Webster, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds analyst, adds: “Compared with previous first provisional results, the current protein values for wheat are the highest they have been at this stage for the past four years, and nearly 1% higher than the previous three-year average.”

See also: Harvest 2016 verdict: What we learned from barley and OSR

Wheat quality at a glance

  • Specific weight: average of 77.2 kg/hl and ranged 72.0-82.0 kg/hl
  • Hagberg: average 2016 and ranged 219-413 seconds
  • Protein: average of 12.6% and ranged 10.2-15%

Barley quality at a glance

  • Specific weight: average of 63.6 kg/hl and ranged 56.2-70.4 kg/hl
  • Nitrogen: average of 1.59% for winter barley and 1.61% for spring barley
  • Retention by a 2.5mm sieve: average of 85% for winter barley and 92% for spring barley

Another measure of the quality of the grain, the Hagberg falling number, has seen an increase on last year averaging 319 seconds compared with 312 seconds at this stage last year.

Within the wheat samples analysed, the provisional results represent the lowest specific weights for four years, with an overall average of 77.2kg/hl.

However, it is still well above the levels witnessed at the provisional stage in the disastrous 2012 harvest, which only reached 71.9kg/hl.

Skyfall is most notable within the nabim Group 1 varieties, which has once again achieved a specific weight and Hagberg above the Group 1 average, plus a protein level only 0.1% below the average.

Skyfall represents a large proportion (46%) of the Group 1 sample and also accounts for 23% of the total wheat data analysed at this stage.

However, Mr Webster points out that as in previous years, the early provisional data has a regional bias towards the East and South East and also Group 1 and 2 varieties, so figures may change as more samples are analysed.

For barley, the provisional results indicate a smaller specific weight and grain size than seen in last year’s results, although there is a noticeable divide between winter and spring barley.