Uncertainty over UK wheat yields with big differences between light and heavy land, figures suggest

Wheat being harvested near Leiston Abbey Picture: STEVEN GEATER

Wheat being harvested near Leiston Abbey Picture: STEVEN GEATER - Credit: Steven Geater

A great deal of uncertainty still exists around wheat yields at this stage of the UK harvest, with large amounts of variability between heavy land and light land affecting estimates, a report suggests.

Farm levy payers’ body AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds said based on early yields from the English regions, it looked as though the current average yield would be 7.7-8.0t/ha, which is below the five year average yield for wheat (8.2t/ha).

The national average yield has been adjusted to 14.5% moisture (moisture levels were low) to allow for comparison with historical data, it said as it published its progress report on harvest up to August 7.

At that point, combines were running at 12 hours or more per day as UK farmers took advantage of the long dry spell over June-July and into August to bring in their wheat crops.

The report said yields had been “highly variable”, with light lands tending towards lower yields of typically 7.5t/ha, although these had plummeted to 2.5-5.0t/ha on the lightest land.

Heavier land, which hold moisture longer, was yielding 8.0-8.2t/ha, with occasional crops yielding 11.5-15.0t/ha.

At that point, the winter wheat harvest was just under 60% complete. Harvest of winter wheat continued to progress rapidly in the dry conditions, with just under 580K ha harvested during the week ending August 7. Progress continued to be ahead of the last five harvests, with harvest at that stage in 2014 30% complete.

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“Even on farm, yields have been variable with up to a 7t/ha yield difference between fields. Coastal areas that have benefited from slightly lower temperatures and a little more rainfall are producing slightly better yields than more central locations,” it said. “With an increased volume of feed wheats harvested in the week ending August 7, there have been some better yields reported, with heavy land yielding up to 11.5t/ha in the South East.”

Grain merchants Gleadell said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) first estimate for the 2018 English wheat area, at 1.64m ha, was slightly above figures released by farm levy payers’ organisation AHDB. If correct, would equate to about a further 150,000t of UK production, lifting the crop back towards 14m t, it said. “However, AHDB and DEFRA crop or area forecasts are treated with extreme caution nowadays and there is every chance the crop is still nearer 13.5m than 14m t,” Gleadell said.