Harvest survey reveals below-average wheat yield

THIS year’s wheat harvest has not been as bad as first feared, despite the extremely dry spring weather, according to the results of a National Farmers’ Union (NFU) members’ survey.

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

Many farmers in the eastern region, where two-thirds of England’s wheat is grown, were particularly badly hit by a lack of rainfall.

NFU combinable crops chairman Ian Backhouse 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 on to later maturing crops, yields have been exceptional. However, towards the latter part of harvest there was more variability in quality and with summer rains preventing many farmers keeping up with ripening crops.”