9 August 2002

Wheat quality concerns mount with wet weather

By FW reporters

WET weather has put wheat quality on a knife-edge in East Anglia and the East Midlands.

Another wet week and low Hagbergs will be widespread wrecking all hopes of milling premiums, say experts. However, further south crops are less forward and faring better so far.

In Notts and Lincs combines were back in action last Sunday despite up to 130mm (5 ins) of rain during the previous week, says Retford-based ADAS agronomist Andy Wells.

"A few were into wheat. One was doing a salvage job in Charger that already had 10% of ears sprouting, coming off at 18% moisture."

Sooty moulds are also building up, particularly on crops that didnt receive an earwash. But the big risk is the wet and warm weather that is encouraging sprouting, particularly in susceptible varieties, he says.

"This is the nightmare scenario. Once sprouting happens Hagbergs are ruined."

Harper Adams researcher Peter Kettlewell says provided the Hagberg has held above milling quality growers should go for crops as soon as they will combine. "By this stage you have to forget about not going above 18% moisture. Just get the drier fired up and take what you can, when you can. The cost of drying from 23 or 24% doesnt compare to the possible premium loss with Group 1 wheats."

Prioritise varieties according to sprouting rating on the Recommended List and consider sampling and testing to avoid wasting diesel on wheat where Hagberg has already gone down the drain, he adds.

"Sample in a W across the field then thresh the ears out."

In Herts and Essex Harlow Agricultural Merchants Stuart Attridge says wheat is in a very dangerous situation and desperately needs some sun.

"As yet we have had no reports of sprouting, but ears are turning black and weathered so some quality will already have been lost."

That is echoed by Dengie Crops Mark Button earlier this week. "It is what is forecast that I am worried about. If it stopped dry from today wed have few problems."

South-east Essex-based growers &#42 R Philpot & Sons had combined 1500t of wheat by Monday. "We had about 10% in. Most of the rest is still standing but ears are turning black and from now on Hagbergs on Malacca will be hit," says manager Robert Willy.

Camgrains Philip Darke had seen 500t of Malacca, Charger and Claire by Monday. "Quality is reasonable. Malaccas proteins are 0.5% down on last year at 12.5%, but the rain will have upset prospects.

"There is a major risk of trouble ahead, Charger that was fit last week will have its quality spoilt, and Hereward has probably gone the same way," he says.

But in Sussex Richard Wright of Chichester-based Bartholemews reports better news. "While everyone has had some rain there have been fewer heavy storms than up-country and rainfall totals have been less dramatic.

"Crops along the south coast are only just ripe so the bad weather should not be causing any major problems so far; grain quality should be OK." &#42