19 August 1997

Quality is top of the choice list for 1998

Crop performance and sowing intentions are emerging from Dalgetys 1000 farmer nationwide harvest survey and its analysis of seed trade trends.Andrew Blake examines the key findings from the mixed 1997 harvest and looks at how they are influencing variety choices this autumn

BIG swings towards better quality cereal varieties for next harvest are highlighted in figures from national merchant Dalgety.

Farmers are set to grow 7% more group 1 & 2 milling wheats than last season, according to David Neale, national cereal seeds product manager. Furthermore, barleys with malting potential could account for more than 60% of the market – up from 45% last year.

But with quality so variable in 1997, yield must remain the key driver in variety choice, says Mr Neale.

Dalgety reckons last seasons reduction in set-aside to 5% led to a 4.2% increase in the cereal area. "With moisture levels ideal for seed-bed cultivation and equipment able to drill rapidly, we expect to see further increases in cereal drillings this autumn," says Mr Neale.

Subject to crop outcome, the shift in wheat varieties should leave group 1 & 2 types accounting for a quarter of the wheat area. "This will be appropriate for home demand and provide a greater ability to enhance exportable quality."

Mr Neale welcomes recent IOB endorsement of winter barleys Gleam and Regina. But with uncertainty over malting premiums he expects growers to concentrate on their yield components as well as those of Fanfare and Rifle.

"Contrary to some reports, we see limited change in the overall plantings of barley, although there will be pressure on the size of the spring barley market."