15 August 1997

South and east wheat results exceed hopes

By Robert Harris

WHEAT QUALITY is proving a pleasant surprise for many East Anglian and southern growers. While not matching last years results, it is better than expected.

A mixed picture is emerging from Norfolk and Lincs. In other areas, too little has been cut to comment, says the trade, apart from the rain-battered south-west which is facing an atrocious harvest.

All regions report yields down on last years highs, typically back to average.

In southern East Anglia, Hereward has specific weights of 79-80kg/hl, and Hagbergs are above 250, says Philip Darke, manager at Camgrain, Linton. Protein is averaging more than 11%. Rialtos Hagbergs vary from 150 to 250, possibly due to lodging. "They are extremely variable, even off the same farm."

Early results from Fengrains North Cambs/West Norfolk catchment area reflect more widespread lodging. "Some yields are as good as last year, but a lot are down," says Chris Barnes.

"We are going to struggle to find 76kg/hl, 225 Hagberg wheat for export." But quality is rising in standing wheats, he adds.

"Its early days, but yields on some farms are 1t/acre below last year," says Jonathan Cowens of Lingrain, Boston. Overall yield will slip as a result, he believes. "Samples are not as pretty, but proteins are up. Hagbergs are generally fine, though screenings may be a bit of a problem."

Yields are up in East Norfolk, droughted last year, but down in the west of the region due to lodging and late rain, reports Glencore Grains Philip Scott at Wymondham. "Bushel weights are 73 to 74kg/hl, three points down on last year. Lodged crops could pull it down more." Hagbergs are 40-60 points down at about 320, he adds.

"Were back to average yields," says Banks Agricultures Richard Whitlock of Beds and surrounding counties. Proteins are 0.75-1% higher than last year. Hagbergs are adequate – only 2-3% of samples tested so far have been below 250, he notes. "Specific weights are lower, but not enough to give undue concern."

Well-bodied soils are producing heavy yields in the south, says John Smith at Weald Grain, Mereworth, Kent. "Light land yields are not too special though not disastrous."

Quality remains mainly good, despite rain for most of last week. "Soissons is averaging 11.7% protein, Hagbergs of 276-304 and specific weights over 80kg/hl." Hereward has similar bushel weights and slightly higher Hagbergs. Most feed wheats are fine.

Quality slides west of a line from Cirencester south to the coast, says Cargills Jon Tanner at Blandford Forum, Dorset. "Its all over the shop."

In Devon and Cornwall sprouting is reported in the many lodged and some standing crops following heavy rains and high temperatures. "Hagbergs seem to have disappeared," says Duncan Lyon at Devon Grain. "I hold little hope for milling wheats."

Widespread lodging means improvement is unlikely, he reckons.

WHEATS; EARLY SIGNS

&#8226 Quality better than thought in southern East Anglia and south.

&#8226 Norfolk and Lincs mixed. Lower bushel weights, some poorer Hagbergs, especially where lodged.

&#8226 Sprouting and laid crops common in south-west.

&#8226 Yields generally back to average.