The latest wheat results from AHDB’s Cereal Quality Survey point to further potential concerns for UK milling wheat, particularly concerning Hagberg Falling Number (HFN).
The proportion of wheat samples hitting full specification - nabim Group 1 samples, specific weight: 76kg/hl, HFN: 250s, protein: 13 per cent - dropped from 31 per cent in the first provisional release, to 24 per cent in the latest (second provisional release) of Cereal Quality Survey data.
The key driver behind the recent declines in the proportion of wheat meeting specification has been HFNs. The average HFN for nabim Group 1 samples at 254s, is down 6s on the first provisional results (260s) and 62s down on last year’s final result (316s).
Looking purely at the headline average HFN presents the results in a more positive light than may actually be the case, says AHDB.
The HFN on a regional basis presents a more concerning picture. HFN numbers have shown a considerable range for nabim Group 1 samples so far this season.
Jonathan Arnold, grain trader at Robin Appel, says mills in Avonmouth and Southampton are having to go further afield to source quality milling wheat and compromise on their specification. “It is very regional. South of the M4 copped the worst of the weather and harvest which decimated milling wheat and malting barley.
“As you go further north and east, quality gets better, Hagbergs are stronger, proteins are good and yields ok.”
Mr Arnold says he has seen samples of wheat with Hagbergs as low as 60-65s. “But this is not the national picture – you have to pick and choose your region. Wheat is travelling further – the higher premium enables it to travel further. Some is coming from further east and north for Southampton and some of the mills are being sensible and have dropped their minimum Hagberg from 250 to 200.”
Anecdotal comments suggest that some samples failing HFN testing are going straight into the feed pool with no further tests for milling quality. As such these lower quality samples may not be reflected in the Cereal Quality Survey results, warns AHDB.
Reduced pass rates for protein and specific weight are more easy to compensate for, as seen in previous years. However, while HFN can be blended using a liquefaction scale it is less straightforward than for other quality components, according to AHDB.
One redeeming factor for the UK crop this season could be the proportion of milling wheat compared to other years. The AHDB Planting and Variety Survey revealed a much larger area of nabim Group 1 and 2 varieties this year, which could give millers a larger pool of wheat to source quality samples from, adds AHDB.