Wheat yields rose by 16% in England with a far better crop quality this year compared with the disastrous harvest of 2012, according to the NFU’s annual harvest survey.
The overall wheat yield in England this harvest was 7.8t/ha, only slightly up on DEFRA’s five-year average of 7.7t/ha – despite the good harvesting conditions.
However, total wheat production looks set to be much lower than the 13m tonnes produced last year after the survey showed this year’s wheat harvest area in England was down 19% on 2012, from 1.86m ha to 1.51m ha.
As a result, the NFU expects the UK, a net importer of wheat, to import above-normal volumes of wheat for the second year running.
“Farmers worked really hard to get this year’s crop up and running, but with planting down by 19% I’m not surprised overall wheat production is down,” said NFU combinable crops board chairman Andrew Watts.
“Farmers worked really hard to get this year’s crop up and running, but with planting down by 19% I’m not surprised overall wheat production is down.”
Andrew Watts, NFU combinable crops board chairman
“Many arable farmers are still working under the shadow of 2012’s appalling weather and the knock-on impact this has had.
“We have seen some very good yields coming from what wheat was left after the winter this year. If, as we are seeing, the quality is excellent, that will be some comfort for producers.”
He hoped the high quality of wheat harvested would be of value to the food industry this year and persuade UK companies to use a higher proportion of British wheat in their products.
However, the NFU said the UK must start to produce more itself and it called on government to deliver on its promises to reverse the decline in agricultural R&D spending and knowledge exchange to help weather-proof British crops, particularly if extreme conditions become more frequent.
Mr Watts said: “Innovation and technology are vital in keeping crops healthy and resilient, yet this technology has been under a sustained and unwarranted attack recently, and the impacts could be grave for the industry.
“The last thing we want is for legislators to regulate the UK and EU out of arable production by undermining access to pesticides and products that will be vital to protect the crops of the future.”
DEFRA will release its UK-wide harvest results on 17 October.
* The NFU has also produced a video which offers consumers a taste of what harvest means to farmers.
Early wheat harvest shows good yield quality