Rains begin to take toll on UK wheat quality

Harvest-time rains, which have depressed the quality of wheat in continental Europe, began to take their toll on the UK crop too although, on yield, the crop looks increasingly certain to set a record high.

Adas cautioned that the beginning of the second half of the UK harvest, now 75% complete, had begun to reveal some of the quality problems noted in France in particular, where moisture falling on ripe kernels encouraged sprouting, rendering an unusually large proportion of grain fit only for feed.

"There are the first indications this week of quality starting to deteriorate following the heavy rainfall of the last few weeks," the crop consultancy said.

The average Hagberg falling number, in essence a measure of sprouting, for the cumulative harvest had fallen to 284 seconds, down from 291 seconds as of a week ago.

 "There are now reports of some poorer quality grain in the South, where harvest has been delayed by rain," Adas added.

Quality vs quantity

Nonetheless, quality issues remained limited and "only a problem in crops where harvest has been delayed for some time," the consultancy said in a weekly crop report.

"Where crops are only just ripe for harvest quality has been maintained."

And on quantity, the group raised to 8.3-8.6 tonnes per hectare its estimate for the average yield, which has increased as farmers have moved on from reaping milling wheat to harvesting lower value, but more productive, feed wheat.

The UK, the European Union's third-ranked wheat producer, achieved its current record wheat yield, of 8.3 tonnes per hectare, in 2008, with a 10-year average of 7.7 tonnes per hectare.

"Yield reports continue to be positive, with the majority of farmers reporting yields above the farm average," Adas said, terming as "common" results of 10 tonnes per hectare.

Spring barley upgrade

The consultancy also raised to 6.0-6.3 tonnes per hectare, from 5.9-6.1 tonnes per hectare, its assessment of the spring barley yield, again a historically high result, and well above the average of 5.4 tonnes per hectare.

"Spring barley yields continue to be good, with an increasing number of good yields reported from Scotland," Adas said.

And on quality, "most malting crops are achieving specification," although the average nitrogen concentration for malting supplies, at 1.5%, was up 0.2 points week on week.

Adas also cautioned that spring barley crops left to harvest in the south of England "are showing increased levels of brackling," a buckling in the lower parts of the stem, "and are becoming a priority to harvest to avoid losses".

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