UK wheat harvest bucks EU quality problems, so far

The UK wheat harvest is, so far, failing to show the quality issues which have beset many continental European crops, data from Adas showed, underlining the hopes for a strong export performance.

Results from the first 5% of the harvest are showing yields above the UK average of 7.7 tonnes per hectare, although with significant variability, the consultancy said.

"Some of the lightest land in the eastern region," the UK's top grain-growing area, is yielding "just 4.5 tonnes per hectare, whilst heavier land in the same region is yielding 9.0-9.6 tonnes per hectare".

In some northerly and westerly areas, yields of up to 12 tonnes per hectare have been reported.

High Hagbergs

And on quality, while protein levels are proving "low", specific weights are coming in at average levels, and Hagberg falling numbers, in essence a measure of sprouting, are "good", at more than 300 seconds, with higher numbers better.

That could put the crop on course to match last year's result of 314 seconds, according to the HGCA crop bureau, which was the best result since 1990, when a figure of 334 seconds was recorded.

In the unusually damp year of 2012, the result fell to 237 seconds.

It also contrasts with the low numbers being seen in some parts of the continent, particularly in France, where talk is that half the crop has come in with a Hagberg number below 180 seconds, making it potentially unfit for even low-grade milling purposes.

The International Grains Council on Thursday raised its estimate of EU feed use of wheat, citing the quality setbacks.

Weather fortunes

The quality questions in France, and countries such as Romania too, are down to rains which, on ripe crop, encourage sprouting and lower quality, although there are signs of the threat easing off.

While rain, which abated in central Europe on Wednesday, "will return during the weekend, take a break for a little while next week, and then return again", crop quality issues "should not be as serious as they were earlier this month", World Weather said.

The UK, by contrast, has had an unusually dry summer, for the most part, with all but eastern areas seeing below-average rains over the past week.

Although UK wheat looks unlikely in quantity to meet protein levels specified by some major importers, that shortfall is relatively easily corrected by mixing with harder wheat from the likes of Canada and Germany, raising hopes of it meeting some of the trade void created by the poor French result.

Barley, rapeseed results

The dry weather has helped UK farmers achieve rapid progress on harvesting early-ripening crops, such as winter barley, of which 85% is in the barn compared a typical 50% by the end of July.

The winter barley harvest was showing a yield of 7.2-7.4 tonnes per hectare, well above the average of 6.4 tonnes per hectare, Adas said.

The winter rapeseed harvest, now 75% complete, well ahead of the 30% average, was estimated at 3.4-3.6 tonnes per hectare, a little above the average of 3.3 tonnes per hectare, although disappointing some growers, who had expected results well above average levels.

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