2 June 1931

Input cuts threaten wheat crop quality

CONCERN is mounting as wheat growers look to cut late nitrogen and fungicide applications on their crops in a bid to reduce costs.

The move could put quality at risk and reduce the overall appeal of the UK crop, says Richard Whitlock, grain director at Banks Cargill Agriculture.

"Traders are hearing of more and more farmers planning to do this to help offset falling wheat prices. But we will have about a 4m tonne export surplus, and if we do not achieve good grain quality we will lose out to US soft red winter wheats, and French and Ukrainian wheat.

"It is very difficult to get the message across. We are not talking about applying inputs to achieve a premium, where, if you spend the money, you see an immediate advantage.

"We are talking about preventing the erosion of the overall UK base price. We could be left targeting the rubbish end of the market, competing with US maize." That crop is trading at £12/t discount to US soft red winter wheat.

Late nitrogen dressings will help ensure target protein specifications are met. For UK and Irish homes that means a minimum of 12.75-13% for top-grade breadmaking wheats, and for export markets to the Mediterranean 12-12.5%. For soft wheats like Claire and Consort, used as fillers in grists, 10.5-11% protein is required for export.

Ear-wash sprays will help protect specific weight and Hagbergs, vital for North African and other new Third country markets that must be secured for UK wheat next season, says Mr Whitlock.

lGrain market managers in Brussels granted k5/t export subsidies on a further 114,000t of wheat and 79,000t of barley at last weeks meeting, following the tone set the previous week (Business, May 24) which saw the refunds return for the first time in a year. &#42