Arable farmers could miss out if they opt just to grow a “barn-full of feed wheat” for next year’s harvest.
Andrew Newby of plant breeder CPB Twyford said record feed wheat prices meant that was the tempting option, but growers should not be “blinded” by the base price and neglect Group 3 premium biscuit-making varieties, which had only marginally lower yields.
“Based on predicted prices for November 2008, selecting a Group 3 variety over an out-and-out feed wheat could improve farm incomes by £100/ha,” said Mr Newby.
“With trade experts predicting Group 3 premiums of around £15/t over feed wheat next year, there really is a nice dollop of icing on what is already a pretty impressive £130/t baseline cake,” he said.
Tim Hirst, seeds director at Grainfarmers, said sales of Group 1 and 2 milling wheats had remained steady at 40% of the market, but Group 3 varieties had slumped to “a dire” 16% of total sales.
He said a perceived slide in performance this year of top-selling biscuit variety Robigus was partly to blame. Last year Robigus sales accounted for 20% of the market, compared with 6% so far for 2008.
But Mr Hirst said if millers wanted farmers to grow more Grade 3 wheats they needed to incentivise them to do so. “And they need to send the message out quickly.”