THE LATEST survey of this year's harvest has shown that the UK has grown the highest proportion of bread-making wheat for 13 years, though yields were not spectacular.

A substantial 45% of the samples have hit the premium spec' for this harvest and, with the final results in, there is a much clearer picture of what harvest 2016 looks like for the UK.

From 17,689 wheat samples analysed in 2016, the results are similar to earlier surveys and provide evidence to the anecdotal comments about smaller grain sizes this year. The average specific weight of wheat in 2016, at 76.7kg/hl, is the lowest in four years.

James Webster, an AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds analyst, commented: “It is worth noting that, despite specific weights being lower than the five year average of 77.6kg/hl, the average for Group 1 wheat samples, at 77.4kg/hl, is still ahead of the minimum required for high quality bread wheat in the UK of 76kg/hl.”

The average protein content is 12.4% – the highest average protein level in the UK since 2012 and 0.6% higher than the three-year average. However, the average Hagberg falling number (HFN), has seen a slight fall on the previous results – at 307 seconds it is higher than last year and the three-year average.

Mr Webster added: “The higher protein levels may encourage UK millers to use more domestic wheat and we have already begun to see UK wheat displacing imported wheat in the milling sector. This year the proportion of imported wheat used by the UK milling industry (including bioethanol and starch production) from July to September is the lowest since 2011.”

For barley, the survey showed nitrogen levels in line with the three-year average, but with smaller grain size than in each of the previous three years.

The percentage of grain retained by a 2.5mm sieve has increased marginally over the course of the survey to 92.1%, with the level passing through a 2.25mm sieve falling slightly to 2.9%. Both the retained and through levels remain worse than the three year average levels of 95.3% and 1.5% respectively.

As with wheat, the smaller grain size may result in higher volumes of grain being required by the malting industry.

Mr Webster noted: “As the season progressed, the retained levels increased, although the national value still remained behind the three-year average. This suggests that barley harvested later in the season and further to the north of England and Scotland generally had a relatively larger grain size.”

The average nitrogen level, at 1.57%, is below the three-year average but above the averages for the previous two years. Again, there is an apparent drop in nitrogen levels across the harvest period, falling from an average of 1.61% in the first release to 1.57% at the end of harvest.

This is likely due to the increased proportion of samples from Scotland and the north of England, which are predominantly spring barley grown for distilling markets and require lower nitrogen levels. Scotland and the North of England account for 50% of the total barley sample.

The average nitrogen content in Scottish barley samples, at 1.49%, is noticeably lower than the average level seen in the East of England at 1.61%.