Harvest 2004: ‘We need quality’

CONCERN IS growing that current poor weather will hit the quality of the 2004 wheat crop.

Early results from the northern hemisphere harvest are suggesting it is a bumper year for feed grains, while growers are struggling to achieve milling quality.

Poor weather during the grain-filling period (up to GS 87 – grain shows thumbnail impression) means that crops in the UK could well follow suit.

“You need sunshine during grain-filling and dry weather during ripening,” said Harper Adams wheat scientist Peter Kettlewell.

“But we haven‘t had a lot of sunshine, and that will affect Hagberg and specific weight.”

The University‘s Wheat Quality Forecast, made in April and based on climatic phenomenon over the North Atlantic ocean, predicted poor June conditions would bring a quality drop.

The best Hagberg estimate is 246, against a 2003 HGCA average of 294, while specific weight is estimated to drop to 75.9kg/hl from last year‘s 77.5kg/hl.

“It looks like the weather patterns predicted back then may be coming true,” said Dr Kettlewell.

The forecast also warns that a “serious national epidemic of orange blossom midge” could cause average Hagberg figures to drop even lower.

With harvest underway in the US, wheat growers have struggled to achieve quality on soft red winter wheat, according to HGCA economist Julian Bell, and overall production is set to drop.

“They‘re also expecting a bumper maize crop if the weather holds in July.

“This all tends to support the thinking that milling premiums will rise, so UK growers need to hang on to quality.”

New crop feed wheat prices have dropped to £60/tonne, according to grain merchants Gleadell, and despite grower expectations could drop further still.

“We need quality,” said Gleadell managing director Jon Duffy.

“If we don‘t get it the impact will fall squarely on price.”