UK growers' clamour for seed to fill a mammoth spring
planting programme, forced by the worst autumn sowing period in living memory, is
being answered in part thanks to the benign winter in the likes of Germany and
UK merchants have been scouring Europe for spring seed for
farmers left with unusually large spring sowings programmes, after the second
wettest year on record left autumn planting plans in tatters.
UK growers had, by the start of December, not planted 25% of
winter wheat - which is usually in the ground at least a month before - with
many autumn crops that were sown destroyed by flooding or ravaged by slugs
which flourished in the damp conditions.
That they are managing to meet demand is largely down to the
benign winter weather on the Continent which, unlike last year, has limited the
need for resowing, and created a surplus of spring seed for shipment to the UK.
"Seed merchants are getting their seed from as far as the Czech
Republic or Germany," Matthias Wree, at malting barley consultancy RMI
Analytics, told Agrimoney.com.
At Gleadell, the UK merchant, seed manager Chris Guest said:
"It is the complete opposite of last year, when we were sending them spring
"This time, their winter crops are well established."
The quest for seed is taking merchants not only into foreign
countries - with France and Poland also mentioned as sources, as well as Denmark
for spring barley - but unusual varieties too, at least for spring wheat, which
looks set to grow from a minority crop into a mainstream one this year.
While many varieties of spring barley, of which the UK is
typically a major grower, are common throughout Europe, such as Syngenta's
Propino, Quench and Shuffle, spring wheat varieties tend to be a more localised.
"Usually it is such a small market, it is not so well
supplied by the major firms," Mr Guest said, noting that UK spring wheat seed demand
was typically less than 5% that of winter wheat.
While one variety, Tybalt, is already well known to UK growers,
Gleadell also has sought labels better known in countries such as Poland.
The switch to different varieties has prompted concerns
about the usability of much of the UK spring wheat crop this year, given that
much of it will be of types unfamiliar to domestic millers.
However, merchants were sending samples of unusual wheats to
millers well in advance of harvest, to ensure they were familiar with the quality
profile, Mr Guest said.
A bigger problem may face farmers who have scrimped on
spring seed, and opted to plant winter varieties instead, even into this month,
a grain, and seed, trader told Agrimoney.com.
While growers may be prepared to cope with a crop not
ripening until September, the trouble may come if it does not produce grain at
"Some may not vernalise," the trader said, a reference to the
need for cold weather for winter varieties to germinate or grow a head.
"If farmers have planted too late, and not expose their seed
to cold temperatures, they may just be left with silage."