Wheat yields worse than expected

With most wheat crops now in the barn – in England at least – it appears that the dry spring and wet summer have hit crops even harder than many initially thought.

Several traders are reporting yields 15-20% down on last year, with some recently harvested crops suffering from sprouting and low Hagbergs.

“Most farmers are extremely disappointed with yields, which are probably 10-20% down,” Centaur’s Adrian Morrell in Lincolnshire said this week.

Quality was a mixed bag, he said. “Luckily, most Group 1s were cut before the rain last week and quality was good. But grain coming in now looks like it’s been through a washing machine.”

Hagbergs of wheat cut over the past few days were around 150-250 and proteins were lower than last year at 11.5-12.5% (compared with more than 13% in 2006). Bushel weights were also down on previous years, although varied anywhere between 67 and 81kg/hl, he said.

“The dry April was probably the main cause, but the wet summer didn’t help. Crops didn’t get any sunlight and some were flooded completely.”

Yields did not fare any better in the Southampton region, according to Paul Taylor from Grainfarmers. “They’re probably 15-20% down in a lot of cases.”

Most quality wheat cut early fared well, but soft wheats cut recently lost Hagbergs – below 100 in some crops south of the M4, he said.

“Cordiale’s done particularly well, but Einstein and Solstice have been more variable.

“Most who targeted 13% protein got it, but we’ve seen some coming in at 12-12.2%, where nitrogen may have been applied too early,” he added.

His colleague Nigel Britland reported a slightly better picture in Yorkshire. “Generally, wheats are 0.5-0.75t/ha down on the five-year average, but quality has held up better than we first thought.”

Samples cut a week ago following a 10-day break still came in at over 300 Hagberg. Proteins for the Group 3s were typically 10-11.5%, while quality wheats were nearer 11.5-12%. Bushel weights ranged from 66 to 80kg/hl.

“Solstice is doing fine, but Einstein’s been variable – the drought did some damage on the lighter soils.”

In Scotland, Glencore’s Tim Calder said only a small area (about 5%) of wheat had been cut by Tuesday, although early indications suggested reasonable yields and quality. “Hagbergs have been over 300, although proteins have been more of a mixed bag.”

Better picture for spring barley

Spring barley appears to have fared better than wheat across many parts of the UK.

In East Anglia, Fengrain’s John Whitelam said quality was excellent, although screenings were higher than normal. Nitrogen contents were lower than last year, with Optic and Tipple coming in at 1.5-1.6%.

Scottish spring barley also did well, although it was the older varieties that had performed best, Mr Calder said. “Prestige followed by Optic have both fared well. So have Troon and Decanter. But Oxbridge looks washed out and has been heavily skinned, which can cause problems for maltsters.

“Last year it was magnificent, but it obviously needs a good summer,” he said.

Wheat harvest is nearly complete across England, but yields could be down by 20% in some areas.

Strong tillering yields best

  • The dull summer has hit yields of many varieties, but those with strong tillering and a longer grain fill, such as Robigus and Oakley, have performed well, according to CPB Twyford’s Mark Dodds.

    “While the hot, dry April affected tillering in all varieties, the higher tillering ones established a better platform for higher yields.

    Last year, in contrast, high tiller numbers proved to be disadvantageous, as wheats couldn’t find enough water to keep going.”

    This highlights the importance of selecting a range of varieties when planting this autumn, Mr Dodds advised.

    Septoria will remain the number one disease in UK wheat and growers should continue to use varieties with best resistance to it, he said.

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