The 2017 harvest started well, about a fortnight earlier than in 2016 due to prolonged hot and dry weather in late June continuing into early July. While there was a limited availability of crops ready to combine at this time, harvesting of winter barley in the south and eastern regions of England began. Following this, periods of unsettled weather with some heavy, thundery showers covering most of the UK gave short windows of dry spells in which to harvest and the weather was a limiting factor of harvest progress. Despite this, the overall progress is ahead of the 5 year average and the 2017 harvest is now drawing to a close with the analysis of the nutritional quality of wheat and barley well under way. This interim report highlights some of the trends emerging across the UK.

Wheat

Although the total GB wheat area is estimated to be 3% lower than in 2016, early yields of winter wheat are promising at 7.9-8.1t/ha which is 2-5% above the farm average in most regions although there is some variability. Samples collected so far for our survey indicate a specific weight averaging 75.1kg/hl which is lower than 2016 but this is based on a wide range of 67.9-81.2kg/hl. Early figures from our own survey indicate that protein content is around 1% higher than last year, although other sources indicate an increase but not of this magnitude. Table 1 shows the trend Premier Nutrition’s survey has recorded over previous years with the provisional value of 11.3% for 2017. It will be interesting to see if this trend is maintained once later harvested crops have been analysed. Present average moisture levels are comparable to last year at 13.8% but unsurprisingly we have seen a range of between 11-14.9% with higher levels seen in the north and eastern regions. Even so, there appears to be a minimal impact on energy value with results so far indicating an AMEn value of 12.93MJ/kg, which is 0.01 lower than in 2016.

Table 1 The trend in average crude protein content of wheat – PN survey results
Table 1 The trend in average crude protein content of wheat – PN survey results

 

Barley

Spring barley has increased in popularity as farmers face the challenge of controlling black-grass, especially in the eastern regions of England where it remains a key problem. Early reports indicate that average yields of both winter and spring barley are close to or above the 5 year average at 6.8-7.0t/ha and 5.6-5.8t/ha respectively estimated by ADAS in their AHDB Harvest Report. Bushel weight is showing a slight increase compared to 2016 with results from our survey showing specific weights averaging 64.9kg/hl. According to our analysis, protein content shows an increase of 0.3% compared to 2016 but this figure should be treated with caution until samples collected from the later stages of harvest have been analysed, as this figure is currently based on a relatively small data set. Early indications also suggest a small increase in energy value of barley (+0.05 MJ/KG) compared to 2016.

Mycotoxins

Although wheat shows slightly higher DON levels compared to previous years they are still well below the maximum guidance level of 8000ppb in cereals. Currently analysis of new crop barley shows lower DON and Zearalenone levels indicating that mycotoxin risk is low. In terms of mycotoxins, the principal mycotoxins of concern from oats in relation to horses are T2 and HT2 toxins. No data is currently available on T2/HT2 levels in the 2017crop.

Oats

By the end of September, 98% of the GB oats area had been harvested. Difficult harvest conditions have implications for both grain and straw quality. The AHDB harvest report 6 notes a GB yield forecast of 5.8-6.0 t/ha for winter and spring oats combined. Winter oats yield ranges were given as 5.4-9.0t/ha with spring oat yields lower at 4.7-6.7t/ha. Quality is reported as variable as a result of the adverse weather at harvest, with high screenings and discolouration, and markets continue to firm as a result.