AVERAGE WHEAT yields in England were above last year this harvest, but total tonnage was down due to lower plantings, according to provisional National Farmers Union figures.

Yields averaged 7.9t/ha this year, compared to 7.7t/ha in 2004, largely due to better growing conditions throughout the season. But total English production is estimated at 13.8 million tonnes – down from 14.4mt last year.

Yields varied significantly across the country, depending on soil type and rainfall, commented the NFU’s Guy Gagen.

“In general there wasn’t enough rain in the south and west of England and light soils felt it most. Heavier soils and growers further north fared much better.”

The decline in total production reflects the reduction in plantings last autumn as farmers struggled in difficult economic conditions, added NFU combinable crops board chairman, Arthur Hill.

“I am extremely concerned that the increase in costs of fuel and fertilizer combined with low commodity prices will lead to further cut backs in plantings this year.”

Mr Gagen agreed, adding that there is now more flexibility among medium sized farms to cut back on production, either due to the Single Farm Payment or the use of contractors.

“Many farms are not carrying as much machinery and labour as in the past, so if you want to cut back for a year or two, it is much easier to do so.”

In Scotland, harvest is only just coming to an end and analysis of the situation here will not be available until full NFU and DEFRA harvest survey results are published at the end of September.