This year’s wheat harvest has not been as bad as first feared, despite this year’s extremely dry weather, according to results of an NFU members’ survey.

Preliminary results from the NFU’s 2011 harvest survey has revealed yields are below average, despite a cropping area up around 3% to 1.822 million hectares. English wheat production for this year is estimated at around 13.636 million tonnes, down on the five-year average by 1.5 %, said the NFU.

Full UK yield results for wheat, barley and oil seed rape crops are still being gathered by the economics team and will be made available when harvest has progressed further in the north and after the results of UK government planting surveys are published at the end of September.
Ian Backhouse, NFU combinable crops chairman, said: “I believe this year’s yield decrease was largely due to tough growing conditions last spring, including one of the lowest ever rainfall levels recorded for the first half of the year across the majority of England.
“Despite higher plantings, production this year is expected to be lower compared to last year, due to lower yields. Production will be down on the five-year average by around 189,000 tonnes.
“Survey responses have pointed to a large variability in yields often linked to soil type and capacity to hold water where a fortunate few benefited from showers of rain this spring. Where sufficient rain fell in June and July onto later-maturing crops, yields have been exceptional.
“However, towards the latter part of harvest there was more variability in quality, with summer rains preventing many farmers keeping up with ripening crops. Fortunately, much of the quality milling crop was already harvested and dried before exposure to prolonged rainfall.”
He also acknowledged the importance of investment in the sector, saying farmers had invested “millions” to preserve grain quality.
Backhouse added: “Farmers have invested millions in drying to preserve grain quality. The Home Grown Cereals Authority reports that wheat quality is very good this year, with a higher proportion expected to achieve full milling specification than for a number of years. Many report crops weighing heavier and high bushel weights are partly compensating for lower volume harvested.
“Following a very dry spring and rains disrupting the summer harvest in 2011, farmers invested in grain drying to protect quality and overcame a challenging season.”

>> Outlook good for quality of wheat harvest