Yields down and quality variable in early wheats

Early reports suggest UK wheat yields are down this year, although quality seems to be holding up reasonably well. But variability was the word most grain traders were using to describe crops so far.

Overall wheat yields were poor, Chris Spedding, grain director of Hampshire-based Robin Appel said on Monday [6 August]. “There are an awful lot of people reporting threes [3t/acre] rather than fours [4t/acre], and some are down in the low twos. There have been some gloomy conversations.

“A lot of growers who thought they had sold a quarter to a third forward are now finding they have sold a third to a half.”

Quality was patchy in his area, which extended from Hampshire up through the Cotswolds to Derbyshire, he said. “Proteins are thereabouts, but specific weights are low – even grim in certain places – and Hagbergs range from 150 to 350.

“Some wheat will need some bending of the market to make it usable.” Grainfarmers’ Simon Ingle reported a very mixed bag, although generally he was encouraged. “We’re not facing a disaster either for yield or quality. Yields are mixed. Some farmers are down 10%, while others are pleased.”

Overall he thought there would be a yield deficit compared with 12 months ago, however. “And remember many farms didn’t have a busting good yield last year.”

But quality was holding up, although proteins were down maybe 0.5%, and in general much more variable than the previous two seasons, he said. “But there is enough good quality to help us compete on export markets.”

It was also still early days, he noted. “The traditional strong, heavy-land wheat is still to come. If that proves to be poor then we know we do have a problem, but it is too early to be down in the dumps.”

He estimated around 25-30% of the crop in the south was cut, with around 10% combined in Lincolnshire and Humberside.

Frontier’s Andy Bury, based in Diss in Norfolk, suggested around 20% of wheat had been cut across East Anglia. “Yields are a bit disappointing. On some strong Suffolk land they might be 10% down.”

Specific weights were relatively high, he suggested, in the high 70s kg/hl, but proteins were lower and Hagbergs variable.

In contrast Wiltshire Grain’s Nick Brown suggested low specific weights were the main problem with the 16,500t delivered into the store by Tuesday [7 August]. “We’ve had 76kg/hl on Solstice when normally we’d expect 80kg/hl. The grains seem to have swelled up like sugar puffs but there is no weight in them.”

Hampshire Grain’s Mike Clay reported a lot of green grains in samples caused by secondary tillering. “It is causing problems with combining and storage.” Quality was variable, but “it is not all feed by any means”, he said.

Good prices continued to be the silver lining for growers. “A lot has been sold for a lot less than the current value,” Mr Bury pointed out. “But hopefully not all, and that is helping to compensate for lower yields. The market is incredibly firm.”

Wheat Harvest

  • Yields down by up to 10%
  • Quantity variable
  • Proteins generally lower
  • Prices compensating