UK winter wheat quality, as well as yield, is holding up as harvest approaches its last leg, boding well for farmers’ bet on higher-grade varieties coming good – at a time of growing hopes for milling premiums.
With 60% of the winter wheat harvest completed in the UK, the European Union’s third-ranked producer of the grain, the yield is coming in at 7.8-8.0 tonnes per hectare, according to Adas.
While below the 8.3-8.6 tonnes per hectare at which yields were coming in at this stage of the harvest in 2015, which turned out to be a record year, results are coming in “close to” farm averages, the consultancy said.
Furthermore, on quality, latest findings on protein and Hagberg falling number – a measure of kernel sprouting, and a key milling specification – results are a little ahead of those a year ago, although the weekly specific weight figure is a touch lower.
Wheat vs barley
Even so, Adas said that early results indicate “good” specific weights, which show the weight of a particular volume of grain, and are also much-watched by millers.
“The majority of milling wheat crops are meeting specifications,” the consultancy added.
The results are markedly better than expected by many commentators after poor results from winter barley, which is harvested earlier than wheat, and seen as a leading indicator of the wheat result.
Winter barley yields this year about 6.0-6.2 tonnes per hectare, well below the five-year average of 6.8 tonnes per hectare.
Specific weight for winter barley has averaged 58 kilogrammes per hectolitre, compared with the 65.4 kilogrammes per hectolitre expected if growing varieties recommended by the AHDB ag bureau.
‘Reports of quality concerns are increasing’
The UK results also contrast with poor quality and quantity results from many other parts of western Europe, notably France, the bloc’s top producer, but also with some disappointment in second-ranked Germany too.
Indeed, concerns over supplies of quality wheat have been voiced this week by a series of commentators, including UK grain merchant Gleadell which said that “reports of quality concerns are increasing in Germany and have moved as far east as Russia, where yields and quality have suffered due to rain.
While grain supplies remain “abundant, it is the quality end of the spectrum where a potential shortfall lies”, said Gleadell managing director David Sheppard.
“Give these various quality problems, milling premiums across much of the EU have firmed,” albeit that this trend has so far not spread to the UK.
Move to milling
Nonetheless, UK growers, helped too by the boost to export competitiveness from a weaker pound, look – relatively – well placed to exploit a shortfall in world supplies of quality wheat.
The market dynamics also appear to justify their decision this year to plant more high-quality wheat, at the expense of lower grades including feed.
Sowings of Grade 1 wheat topped 400,000 hectares for the first time on records going back to 2006, with Grades 1 and 2 between them accounting for 31% of overall UK wheat area, the highest in six years.
The shift has been encouraged by a newly-developed milling wheat varieties, with yields comparable to those from feed wheat.
Adas noted in its harvest report that milling wheat yields were coming in at 6.0-12.0 tonnes per hectare, only marginally shy of the range of 6.0-12.0 tonnes per hectare from feed varieties.
The data come the day after official statistics showed UK wheat stocks as of late June at 2.7m tonnes, up 34% year on year, and the highest on data going back nine years.
(Source – http://www.agrimoney.com/news/uk-farmers-bet-on-milling-wheat-shows-signs-of-paying-off–9873.html)