'Optimism' over UK wheat crop, despite black-grass

Adas reported "general optimism" over prospects for the UK wheat crop despite the spread of black-grass, affecting more than half of crops, and pressure from fungal diseases too.

Most cereals and rapeseed crops are "in good condition" in the UK, the European Union's third-ranked rapeseed and wheat producer, the consultancy said.

For winter wheat, which accounts for the vast majority of the UK wheat crop, "there is general optimism that yield potential is good", thanks to "good plant populations, low soil moisture deficits and recent brighter weather", which had arrived in time for the important grain-filling period.

With high yields often implying lower protein levels, many farmers have also been using the drier spell late in June to apply nitrogen to milling wheat.

'Black-grass is clearly evident'

The upbeat sentiment defies the spread of slender meadow foxtail an annual grass better known to farmers as black-grass through crops to such a level that "58% of the UK wheat area" contains the weed.

Some 22% of UK wheat crops will suffer a yield loss of at least 5%, while a small amount of badly affected crop, about 9,000 hectares, is expected to be destroyed in an effort to prevent the black grass setting seeds for next year.

"In parts of the east and Midlands, black-grass is clearly evident above the crop canopy," Adas said.

"In the south and east of England, black-grass control has been poor in many crops," hampered in part by wetter weather early in the season which hampered field work, if boosting soil moisture reserves.

The spread of black-grass, also evident in 35% of UK barley fields, has been blamed in part on bans on some herbicides for environmental reasons, but also to the plant becoming resistant to some sprays.

Fungal diseases

The consultancy also highlighted "high pressure" from Septoria tritici, a fungus which causes leaf blotch, thanks to this damp weather.

Pressure from yellow rust, another fungal infection was deemed high too, with Adas also noting growing evidence of fusarium blight.

The UK wheat crop is widely expected to show a marked improvement this year on the 2013 results, with the US Department of Agriculture pegging the harvest at 15.15m tonnes, a jump of 27%.

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