16 August 2001
Researcher confirms quality worries

By Andrew Blake

GROWERS fears of a drop in grain quality appear to have been confirmed by a leading researcher at Harper Adams University.

Peter Kettlewell believes it is not last weeks rain but the hot, dry spell in the week before that may be to blame for the risk of deterioration in near-ripe crops.

“Our March forecast, based on the equivalent of the El Niño effect, was that the Hagberg national average would be 200-250 rather than over 250,” he said.

“The weather at the moment seems to be supporting that.”

The biggest culprit appears to have been the hot conditions during July, when wheat crops were going through the late dough stage.

Such weather will have reduced grain dormancy, making them more prone to sprouting in warm humid weather, Mr Kettlewell explains.

“The hotter it is during the late dough stage, the faster dormancy breaks which increases the risk to Hagbergs in showery weather.”

Most at risk are sprouting-susceptible varieties, notably Charger. But plenty of Claire, which many growers chose for early sowing, is already ripe.

Similar observations have been found in the field by growers contributing to the FWi/FARMERS WEEKLY Harvest Highlights service.

Tim Harvey, who farms at Chapel Brampton, near Northampton has been worried about his Claire after a recent hail storm.

Meanwhile, Davis Kirkwood, who farms with his son at Cherry Cobb Sands, just north of the Humber estuary, has noticed the odd sprouting grain in his crops of Charger.