Harvest 2022: Low-protein issues for biscuit and bread wheats

Harvest is progressing rapidly in the North and, despite the dry weather, combinable crop yields appear to be higher than the five-year average.

Grain quality is mixed, with some of the highest specific weights ever seen for cereals, but low proteins causing problems with bread- and biscuit-making wheats.

See also: Harvest 2022: The 5 top-yielding winter OSR varieties map


Devon Grain has received 16,000t of grain in total, including 9,000t of feed wheat, which has averaged 80kg/hl and 13.5% moisture.

“Specific weight is the highest average we have seen,” says Duncan Lyon, store manager. The screenings have been high, though, with thin and cracked grain proving problematic in some areas.

The company has also received 4,300t of feed barley at 67kg/hl specific weight and 12.7% moisture. And 160t winter beans has been delivered at 11.5% moisture.

“Oilseed rape was done and dusted a while ago, with a high oil content of 45%,” says Mr Lyon.


Further east, Wessex Grain has filled three-quarters of its 70,000t grain store, and three boatloads of winter barley have been exported from Southhampton. 

Milling wheat has yielded more than 10t/ha, with an average specific weight of 80kg/hl. “Protein has been diluted, with levels 0.5% lower than expected,” says Simon Wilcox, farm grain origination manager. Group 1 wheats have averaged just 11-12% protein.

Wessex Grain has seen high specific weights across the board – 74kg/hl for feed barley – and malting barley has averaged a nitrogen content of 1.6%.

Spring barley has done better than expected, yielding 8.6t/ha. “This year’s harvest has been much better than last year’s wet one,” Mr Wilcox says.

Milling oats yielded well in the South West, with more than 56kg/hl specific weight. “The quality will allow it to go for export as well as the domestic market,” says Mr Wilcox.

Oilseed rape has averaged 3.7t/ha, with above-average oil content at 45-46%. “It’s been a super harvest this year, slightly higher than the five-year average,” says Mr Wilcox.


Cambridgeshire arable farmer Tom Martin has finished combining all his winter crops at Village Farms, near Peterborough.

It was Mr Martin’s feed wheat variety, Wolverine, which he was particularly pleased with. This crop received 120kg/ha of nitrogen, and yielded an impressive 9.5t/ha – 1.5t/ha above expectations.

Tom Martin in field with combine

Tom Martin © Lisa Miosi Photography 2022

Mr Martin thinks this variety is particularly good for reduced fertiliser applications.

However, some screenings came back high due to ergot, as well as spring barley volunteers following the previous crop in the rotation.

Spring crops are also nearing harvest completion.

As a result of variable spring barley establishment, yields have been more variable.

Across fields, where he has improved soil quality, crops yielded well at 6.5-7t/ha, due to improved water retention.

“With good yields overall, the main worry has been the risk of fires. The conditions have been bone-dry. Farmers who have known the land for many years have never seen it like this.”

He has seen many fires in his area due to machinery and even electric telegraph poles sparking when temperatures reached 36C.

Rain is due this week, but Mr Martin thinks it will stay dry for Peterborough. Despite a dry autumn, spring and summer, he is pleased with the harvest overall.


Further north at Argrain, near Raskelf, farmers are doing last laps of winter wheat and spring barley before the weather breaks into showers.

“All the wheat was cut last week,” says David Padgett, marketing director. 

“This harvest has been a one-off. Winter wheat that is usually put into our stores for drying has been held back in farm sheds as moisture contents are low at 11%.”

Argrain handles biscuit wheat and is worried about low protein content; the specification is 10.3-10.7% and low protein could make it hard to use.

Milling wheat with nitrogen applied has reached 13% protein and 80kg/hl specific weight. This compares with crops with reduced nitrogen, which averaged just 11%.

Disease has not been an issue due to dry conditions, and good Hagberg scores of more than 250 have been reached. Spring barley is yielding well at 7.5t/ha, he adds.

Need a contractor?

Find one now