DESPITE facing some challenging weather conditions, this year’s bean harvest could be heading to be one of the best on record – at least on yield.

With harvest now complete, Lewis Cottey, president of Pulses UK, commented: “There were some excellent winter bean yields, with some growers reporting more than 7.5t/ha and spring bean yields were reasonable for most. The result is an average UK bean yield that some feel may be a record. Pea crops did not produce record yields, but still performed well.”

He also reported, though, that the quality of the bean crop was not good. Whilst bruchid beetle damage was not as high as the previous year, in both winter and spring beans that and staining in winter beans meant that more than 85% of samples had to go into the feed bin.

“Pea quality, on the other hand, was very good with the majority of the crop suitable for human consumption and excellent colour in most samples despite wet weather throughout harvest,” he added.

With confirmation of a larger crop, UK pulse prices have been under pressure since harvest, meaning that beans remain an expensive protein source relative to other mid-range proteins and so don’t figure most feed rations. If this remains the case, the UK has at least 200,000 tonnes of feed quality beans that will need to be exported.

UK shippers had been active, with up to 75,000 tonnes of feed shipped in September and October alone, but there is less business on the books from November onwards, he reported. However, the UK remains the cheapest source with greatest availability, so is likely to capture any further export demand, but prices for feed are unlikely to rally, he warned.

“Looking ahead to next year, the pulse area for harvest 2020 looks set to grow, and to a greater extent than we thought six months ago. With cabbage stem flea beetle spreading throughout the UK into Scotland and the confirmation of pyrethroid-resistant beetles in the UK, some growers who have become despondent with the challenges of growing OSR crops have switched to pulses as an alternative break crop,” said Mr Cottey.

That means that already prices for new crop are looking weaker than the highest priced buybacks of harvest 2018. “However, pulse crops still represent solid gross margins on the farm, particularly when the benefit of the pulse crop to the following wheat crop is considered,” he pointed out.