Rain made an untimely arrival at Cereals last week, but most farmers visiting the event welcomed it.

In common with much of the east and south of the country, Vine Farm in Wendy, Cambs, has had little rain recently. Fears that crop yields would be hit hard had been mounting with each dry day.

“From the end of March to the beginning of June we had no significant rainfall,” said Velcourt farm director Douglas Inglis. Late-drilled first wheats and second and continuous wheats were suffering most, he said.

“There was some soil damage during harvest, establishment wasn’t brilliant and crops were slow to get going in the spring. Now you can see the lack of ear numbers.”

Crops lost too many tillers, throwing them off as late as GS37, and flag leaves were smaller than normal, he added. “A good grain-filling period will help to make up for that. What we don’t want is another wet harvest – that could soon take another 5-10%.

“There’s no question that crops look better now we have had some rain. But we are looking at first wheat yields falling 5% below the five-year average, and we could be looking at 10-12% less for second and continuous wheats.”

Spring barleys looked reasonable and had picked up well after recent rain, said Mr Inglis. “Yield potential is definitely greater than three or four weeks ago, but the million-dollar question is what is quality going to be like?”

Strutt and Parker’s Richard Means said only 2mm of rain had fallen on the farm at Downham Market in April. May had been unusually dry, too. “That’s a common scenario east of the M1.”

He questioned the efficiency of nitrogen uptake, especially in later-drilled and second wheats, which had poorer root structures. “There are a lot of stary crops about. Ears are shorter and the canopy is not there,” said Mr Means.

For many wheats on “hot” land there was no going back, but on heavier soils he believed crops could still make headway.

“T3 is going to be a vital spray this year – hopefully people have put enough on. Recent rain has been welcome – if we continue with bright weather and showers, then a longer grain-fill period could still make up a lot of potential, although I suspect yields may be 10% down.”

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Frontier’s Jon Duffy said wheat prospects were improving. “If you had asked me two or three weeks ago, I would have been relatively bearish. Now, crops have improved dramatically – first wheats look good, although there are some problems in second wheats.”

He predicted UK wheat output would average 7.6-7.7t/ha, about a third of a tonne below the five-year average. “But remember, that average contains a couple of poor years,” he added.