23 August 2002

Quantity if not quality with wheat half home

By Andrew Swallow

WITH the UK wheat harvest at the halfway mark earlier this week a picture of big yields but very mixed quality is emerging.

"The variability of this years harvest has to be seen to be believed. Some have problems with specific weight, others with protein or Hagberg," says Gleadell Agriculture trading director David Sheppard.

"On the south coast some specific weights are less than 70kg/hl and a lot are 72-73kg/hl, while from Norfolk to Yorkshire Hagberg seems to be more of a problem."

In the south, Yorks and the west, wheat is about halfway through, while in the east some have finished and in Scotland few have started.

Arable Research Centres had cut 12 out of 18 main variety trials by Monday, including those at Andover, Hants; Bainton in Yorks; Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk; and Taunton, Somerset.

"It is a good spread and yields are looking good," says ARC director Mike Carver.

Robigus is top on yield, he adds. "Deben is good again, old faithful Marshall is fourth, and Xi19 doesnt appear to be suffering after all the hype. It is slightly lower than last year but theres no need to despair.

"It is the sixth year in a row that Marshall is in the top five for us," he adds.

Claire is 2% ahead of Option and 5.2% ahead of Consort in the ARC work so far. "With so many results already in, the table is not going to move a great deal from here," he comments.

The good yields have come from a long, slow, not overly sunny, grain-fill period, says Dr Carver. But having sufficient fungicide protection on to maintain green leaf area has been crucial. Some growers may have been misled by apparently disease free crops in May and reduced controls too far, he believes.

Take-all levels have also been exceptionally high so second wheats, and both winter and spring barleys as second or third cereals, have suffered.

"It is a factor of the mild winter and the late uptake of nitrogen in the spring. It meant we couldnt counter the effects of the disease," he says.

NIAB results confirm the yield trend. With three out of 33 trials harvested the average is 10.96t/ha this year compared to a 10.09t/ha mean from the same three sites in the previous five years.

"Xi19 is down on its previous average by about 5% but that is because of one very poor site. Claire is doing well, up by 4% so far, but it is very early days," stresses NIABs Richard Fenwick.

lMore on milling wheat quality over page. &#42


Site Harvest

2000 2001 2002

Cirencester 8.8 8.3 10.9

Bury St Edmunds 9.8 8.5 10.8

Mean of 33 varieties at each site.

&#8226 Massive yields reported.

&#8226 Fungicides key.

&#8226 Second cereals suffered.

&#8226 Quality very variable.