A survey has found that the 2014 UK harvest for wheat has a record high yield, following “near perfect” growing conditions. 

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) harvest survey predicted a weight of 8.6 tonnes per hectare, up 16% on last year. It said this was the largest-ever crop size on record, and the biggest increase year on year in 30 years.

Despite this, there are fears that regulation from the EU Commission will result in the removal and restriction of various active ingredients in crop protection products. The NFU says it will continue to lobby for a different way of regulating, to allow for more high-yield harvests.

Disease in crops was kept at bay this year, thanks to use of available crop protection products.

NFU combinable crops board chairman Mike Hambly said: “This year’s wheat harvest shows how dependent crop yield is on the weather and, as extreme weather events become more frequent, how we as farmers can cope with this.”

Farmers’ challenge

Hambly is sure that research needs to be done to develop more weather-resistant crops. He said: “Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the weather, but fungicides and insecticides are essential tools, allowing us to protect our crops in adverse weather. Many of these are under threat from EU Commission regulation and as this legislation hits, in turn, it will compromise both the quality and potential yield of wheat.

“If farmers are going to rise to the challenge of producing food amidst climate change and the weather volatility that comes with it, then we need to be allowed to use the most effective active ingredients for the job. Research needs government interest and investment so we can grow crops resilient to all weather conditions.

“Farmers have an important job to do. We need the right regulation in place and access to the appropriate chemistry to ensure we can all enjoy and benefit from an abundant and healthy harvest, such as we have had this year. Optimising our productivity allows us to impact less on the environment and meet our responsibilities to the growing global demand for food.”