Harvest 2022 faced some challenging weather conditions with prolonged periods of extreme heat and extended dry spells, causing some droughts. A large problem for farmers was trying to cool grain down quickly enough so that the quality was not affected. Although the abnormal heat has caused problems, combines got off to a record start. Overall, 2022 harvest progress was earlier than in the previous five years, even with a slow finish in both Scotland and the Northeast regions. Compared to the next fastest harvest of 2018, 95% of the 2022 harvest was completed by the end of the 3rd week in August compared to 85% in 2018 (AHDB Harvest Report #6).
The harvest for GB wheat started in the southeast and eastern regions during the second week of July, with the rest of the UK beginning at the start of August (AHDB Harvest Report #2). Winter wheat yields averaged 8.4 - 8.6t/ha, higher than the five-year average of 7.9t/ha. Crops grown on heavier soils have achieved the best results with up to 14t/ha, with crops of lighter soil giving lower yields of 6t/ha (AHDB Harvest Report #6). Spring wheat yields lie somewhere between 4 - 8.5t/ha, with lower water levels affecting some farms with lighter soil and poor crop establishment. In terms of grain storage, little drying has been required this harvest and hot grains and cooling capabilities have been key issues this season in response to the exceptional weather.
Early data from our survey indicates that wheat moisture content is below the yearly average and down by roughly 1% (11.75% moisture) compared to 12.5 – 14% in previous years. Wheat protein has fallen slightly compared to the year-on-year trend and current results from our survey predict protein to be 10% (Figure 1), a decrease of -0.53%, though this is based on early harvested results. When corrected to a standard moisture of 13.5%, the drop in protein is amplified and a decrease of -0.74% is seen compared to last year. There is large regional variation in wheat protein, with results as high as 12.5% in the East and Lincolnshire, and as low as 7.8% in the Central region (excluding Scotland). Energy values for wheat, according to the WPSA energy calculation, are slightly above average, influenced by a drop in moisture content.
Figure 1 Wheat crude protein levels (moisture as is) based on wet chemistry (excluding Scotland) – Premier Nutrition survey results.
Winter barley harvest for 2022 started in the first week of July on lighter soil with the rest starting by the second week. By the 19th of July, it was estimated that 69% of winter barley was harvested (AHDB Harvest report #1) and 99% completed by 2nd August. The next fastest harvest was in 2003, where 96% was completed by this stage (AHDB Harvest Report #2). Overall, winter barley from the 2022 harvest was all completed by 9th August, with all regions except Scotland and the Northeast finishing the week before. Winter barley yields ranged from 6t/ha up to 12.5t/ha depending on soil quality. The average yield of winter barley has been slightly higher than the previous 5-year average of 6.9t/ha, calculated at 7.2t/ha - 7.4t/ha this season. Spring barley was completed in all regions except the Northeast by end of August. Yields for spring barley were above average, with yields ranging from 6 - 10t/ha depending on barley variety (i.e., malting or feed varieties), with the GB average yield between 5.7 - 6.1t/ha. Similar to wheat, barley also needed very little drying this year with some green grain requiring drying if pulled into storage.
Initial results from our survey indicate barley moisture content has reduced this year compared to last year’s levels from 13.14% in 2021 to 11.79% this season. Barley crude protein is similar to last year’s value if marginally lower (Figure 2). Similar to wheat, regional variation in barley protein showed highs in the East/Lincolnshire regions of 10.4% and lows of 8.1% in the North/Northeast regions (excluding Scotland). In terms of barley energy levels, initial data from 2022 are showing slightly higher energy values than the year-on-year trend but are most likely influenced by lower moisture content as also seen in wheat.
Figure 2 Barley crude protein levels (moisture as is) based on wet chemistry (excluding Scotland) – Premier Nutrition survey results
After a higher prevalence of ergot seen in wheat and barley last year, smaller amounts have been found in harvest samples this season. Some ergot has been seen in the central/midlands regions but is unlikely to be higher than previous years. On the whole, mycotoxin levels have also been reported to be lower this year due to the warmer weather reducing the fungal burden on harvest crops.
As these initial results are based on a relatively small sample set, they should be interpreted with a degree of caution. As the dataset increases over the coming weeks for both wheat and barley from all regions, we will report further on these trends.