Apart from a few days, the weather has remained at above average temperatures for this time of year and for September we had 36.6mm of rain, following 48.5mm in August in the Borders.

But, it is starting to feel a bit more autumnal now, though fieldwork is well forward and potato lifting has gone well, helped by some rain to stop bruising the crop during lifting.

Wheat markets have continued to rise, supported by strong export trade and Paris wheat futures have reached new contract highs, gaining more than 10% since September 20. The EU has, from July 1 to October 4, exported just over 8m tonnes of wheat.

In the same period last year, just 5.5m tonnes had been exported but that was from a reduced tonnage compared to this year. The EU is thought to have 31m tonnes available for export this season and if this took place, it would leave very low end of season stocks. Romania is now the EU’s largest wheat exporter, having now moved 2.9m tonnes from its record 11.4m tonne crop.

Wheat prices are also being supported by the US having its lowest wheat stock level since 2007 at 48.43m tonnes (as at September1) and its wheat production this year of 44.76m is well below the expected 50.54m tonnes making it its smallest wheat crop for 19 years.

Other wheat market support is coming from Russia, which is going to increase current export taxes as from February, 2022, to a total of 31.5m tonnes. Russia had previously said it could export 37.5m tonnes of wheat this season and so far, 10.9m tonnes have been shipped, or 22% down on this time last year.

The English 2021 wheat crop area has recently been revised upwards to 1.66m ha, which added around 300,000 tonnes to the original estimates for the UK. We are now thought to have produced around 14.5-15m tonnes this year, which would be 5m tonnes up on last year.

However, this year the wheat crop quality is well down on last year, with higher admixture levels, low specific weights and lower proteins but yields are close to the average of 8-8.2 t/ha. Because of the lack of quality wheat, delivered milling wheat for October was recently quoted at £36.50 over the feed wheat futures price which is £19.86/tonne higher than the 2015/16-2019/20 average for the same week.

New crop prices for 2022-23 are also strong, reaching contract highs reflected in the current Liffee feed wheat futures. November, 2021, futures currently stand at £205 – two weeks ago they were at £193 and on this date 12 months ago were £159. May, 2022, futures currently stand at £210 – which two weeks ago were £199 and 12 months ago were £164.10.

Wheat prices are also being helped by a lack of freight, which included both lorries getting the crop to the port and available boats to take it away. Another problem arising in Europe as wheat drilling progresses is a lack of wheat seed and fertiliser, which could reduce their planted wheat area and potential crop production.

The US maize harvest is going well and on the October 3 was 29% complete, which is 7% ahead of average for this time and their soya harvest was also progressing well at 34% complete, compared to their five-year average of 26% done.

Global markets are relying on South American crops to deliver and Brazil is set for a record crop this year of 188m tonnes. Good weather has seen 33% of its crop planted, up 2% on last year and good September rainfall plus more expected will continue to help crop development.

World-wide grain and oilseeds prices were supported through 2020-21 because of a La Nina weather event that occurred in the South Pacific from October, 2020-March, 2021. It caused production issues and because of that, UK feed wheat futures increased by £23.90 in this period.

A La Nina weather event is when the South Pacific temperature drops more than 0.5°C below normal for the time of year, which is currently the case and there is a 70-80% chance of a weak La Nina in the South Pacific. If a second La Nina event, which causes dry weather (as it did in 2010-11 and 2020-21) occurs, it could tighten South American maize production again, thus supporting global grain prices.

The Scottish barley harvest this year had seen malting quality hold up well with grain averaging 1.4% nitrogen, specific weights of around 62kg/hl and mostly combined at low moistures which will have helped to keep drying costs down, especially given the recent price increase for fuel.

Barley prices are also being supported by the large numbers of pigs that need to be fed and which should have been away weeks ago, but due to the lack of labour at meat processing units are unable to be moved. This has seen barley’s discount to wheat reduced to around £10 per tonne compared to £15-18 per tonne during the harvest period and well down on the £25-45 in 2020.

That said, the large tonnage of Scottish malting quality samples produced this year had reduced the availability of feed barley compared to last year's poor-quality malting barley crop and when there was little demand for malting quality as Covid-19 stopped all social events where beer production was required.

There is expected to be an exportable surplus of around 650,000 tonnes of malting barley but due to small boats of around 3000-40000 tonnes being available, only around 65,000 tonnes will be exported by the end of October. The UK is competitively priced against other countries and is resulting in a high demand for UK malting barley and premium over feed is around £40 per tonne.

Recent feed barley prices in some areas of the UK have seen sales of £150-158 per tonne and malting barley for sale early next year is worth £200-208 per tonne. These higher prices are on the back of higher fertiliser and spray prices which continue to increase.

There have been further rises in rapeseed prices this past week and for delivery to Erith in October is worth £549.50 per tonne. Price support looks set to continue and have risen by over 50% in the last year and are currently sitting at £50/tonne more than at the start of September, but higher prices are not having a significant impact on demand and firming crude oil prices are supporting the demand for biofuels.

Oilseed prices might ease when a larger than expected rapeseed crop arrives from Australia of around 5m tonnes, but Canada – which has been suffering from a severe drought – is looking at a fall in production of 34% down to 12.8m tonnes. Exports are expected to fall by 45% down to 5.8m tonnes.

Tight supply and demand in the EU last season resulted in the EU opening rapeseed stocks for 2021-22 at just 500,000 tonnes and this is expected to remain tight. With high import prices, it will continue to be supported.

Soyabean prices have eased by 10% due to weaker demand for US beans from China which was down by 30% over the last three months and storm damage to docks etc. used for exports in the US gulf. Tonnage estimates were raised by 2.2m tonnes to give a total crop of 144.75m tonnes which depressed prices as well when stocks of 7m tonnes were also reported.

Looking to the future for oilseed rape the area grown in the UK this past year was down to 268,000 ha but with the recent rise in prices will this see growers increase their oilseed rape area, but another unknown is what China’s demand for tonnage will be next year which could play a big part in determining next year’s trade.

Feed bean demand is still strong for export to the EU as Eastern European pea prices remain strong. There is also interest for human consumption spring beans from Egypt and locally in Scotland there is strong demand from the aquaculture industry for de-hulled beans which are used in fish feed for farmed salmon.

Fertiliser prices continue to increase. India tendered for a further 1.9m tonnes of ammonium nitrate and urea of which 700,000 tonnes came from China, but China has now put restrictions on the export of urea which will come into effect soon and will keep urea prices firm in the UK and Europe.

Gas prices continue to increase, reaching their highest level seen so far and this has caused several more European fertiliser factories to stop production which means less availability and continuing the upward trend in nitrogen prices and gas which is now over 550% higher than this time last year and rising.

Fertiliser application is particularly important for those seeking to reach milling grade on wheat and farmers have already expressed concerns about potential yields and this could have implications for UK wheat production in the coming season.

I remember in my early school days when a school term fee was around £100 per term which equated to one fat bullock ready for market and in my early farming career one tonne of feed barley was worth £60 per tonne, which equated to one tonne of bagged ammonium nitrate. These days are long gone.