England’s wheat crop this harvest could be as little as 12.9m tonnes, substantially below other estimates, says the NFU.

For instance, provisional DEFRA figures released yesterday (17 September) put the English wheat area at 1.7m hectares (4.2m acres), 13% down on June 2008.

Based on an average yield of 8t/ha, this would suggest a crop nearer 13.5m tonnes.

But the results of the NFU’s member survey this harvest suggested the English wheat harvest could be 3m tonnes lower than last year’s due to lower yields and a smaller planted area.

The 2009 English wheat harvest could be 1m tonnes below the NFU’s five-year average, the figures showed.

NFU combinable crops board chairman Ian Backhouse said poor planting conditions last autumn were largely to blame for the reduced yields, coupled with poor growing conditions this season.

“Second wheats were most affected by the poor growing conditions but first wheat yields were better than anticipated and have partly compensated. Quality is reported as good, particularly in first wheats with reasonable protein levels and good specification achieved by wheat growers across the country.”

DEFRA’s June survey of agriculture also showed the consequences of difficult cultivations and drilling last autumn, with the English barley areas growing 16% this year, mainly driven by a 33% jump in spring barley sowing.