Crop 2016 August Update By Bob King


Harvest 2016 is well underway throughout the UK with the winter barley crop virtually finished, and spring barley and wheat harvesting moving rapidly northwards.

Weather & Crop Development:

The weather patterns from last autumn through to mid-July have not been beneficial  to cereal production within the UK  and is not as surprise that yields of all crops are at best average and significantly lower than the bumper crops of the past 2 years. The warm late autumn and early winter allowed winter crops to develop rapidly (perhaps too well) whilst the wet spring delayed the planting of spring crops, a dry late spring followed by the very wet June with minimal sunshine had a telling effect particularly on the winter barley crop. In all crops disease pressure has been high throughout the growing season.

Winter Barley:

The worst crop of winter malting barley since….well certainly within recent memory! The potential of the winter barley crop was high, given the high plant populations and high numbers of grain sites on the barley ears (due to the ideal early growing conditions), however the lack of sunshine (and high rainfall) in June meant that the grains never filled resulting in the crop failing to reach its yield potential and eventually produced a crop with very low specific weight, and generally small grain. It is interesting that Maris Otter, with the lowest potential yield performed relatively better than other feed and malting varieties, with the highest rated feed barley varieties performing the worst. The best samples of malting barley were generally from the lightest soils and those that were generally planted later than average. Within our contracted barley, Flagon, once again produced better all round results than Venture. In recent years our winter barley contracts have had a pass rate in excess of 95%, this year (Maris Otter being the exception) we are not expecting to exceed 80% even after reducing our minimum grain size acceptance levels. Despite these issues the ABC Grower Group are expected to have exceeded the regional average for acceptability. Overall it is very unlikely that UK maltsters will be able to purchase the 300-350,000mt of winter malting barley that has been the norm in recent years due to the combination of quantity of barley failing on grain size and the lower yields.

We have nearly completed intake of our harvest winter barley contracts and intake analysis compared with last year at the same time shows:

2016 Nit.% %>2.50mm %<2.25mm 2015 Nit.% %>2.50mm % <2.25mm
Maris Otter 1.49 79.1 4.8 Maris Otter 1.39 86.1 3.3
Flagon 1.41 84.0 4.8 Flagon 1.40 91.1 2.8
Venture 1.40 80.1 5.7 Venture 1.42 88.6 3.1


Spring Barley: 

If the winter barley crop was damaged by the wet weather in June, the spring crop benefited from the moisture as the plants were still growing, when it came to July the much improved weather was ideal for spring barley development as is borne out by the results from crops so far harvested in southern and eastern England. So far all samples (mainly from early planted crops on light soils) indicate no problems with grain size and low grain nitrogen (possibly lower than last year). We await results from later planted crops and those on heavier land, particularly those grown by ‘new’ spring barley growers who have turned to the crop as part of their battle against black grass. We expect to see the first samples from Scotland within 10 days, but due to late planting, the majority of the Scottish harvesting is likely be in September.



UK malting barley markets are heavily influenced by what is happening on the Continent; variable results across the continent have lifted values, which when combined with the fall in sterling has pushed UK prices up considerably since late spring. Whilst actual traded quantities are low (maltsters etc. are concentrating on their pre-harvest contracts), prices are higher than at the same time last year.


Bob King

15th August 2016

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