According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, UK wheat yields rose by 2.8% last year. That’s 8.6 tonnes per hectare, meaning it’s the biggest yield in the last 25 years. But this year farmers can expect the winter wheat yield to fall by 12%.
However, it isn’t all bad news – winter wheat has always been one of the most popular crops in the UK, even beating barley and oilseed rape. The report shows that winter wheat is one of the steadiest crops in our country, ranging from 2.1 million to 1.6 million hectares since 1984! But what are the factors affecting the winter wheat yield in the UK?
Temperature can affect wheat all year round. Warmer temperatures can shorten phase length, with wheat growing more during colder temperatures. This is because the phase length of the wheat is prolonged so it grows taller during chiller temperatures.
Warmer temperatures may shorten the growth period of wheat, but light can help winter wheat and spring barley to flourish! The longest hours of sunshine in the UK typically happen in July and early August – a prime time for wheat to grow and meet expectations for milling and malting.
Wheat is actually frost-resistant until the ‘reproductive’ stage starts – that’s when the ear starts developing and the chances of succumbing to the frost are much higher. The risk of frost is lower during the Spring from April onwards, with the lowest risk of frost being May.
- Soil type
This all depends on where you’re located in the UK. Soil types can greatly affect establishment of winter wheat. For example, wheat growth is generally 90% more successful in sandy soils, compared to 65% in clay soil. To improve chances of greater wheat establishment it’s a good idea to consider deep cultivation on silt soils and reduced tillage on clay-based soils.
Inefficient storing of winter wheat can make or break your yield for the year. Make sure your silos meet quality standards, are free from insect infestation and has been thoroughly cleaned before use. This can reduce the chances of Ochratoxin A formation, which can increase moisture percentage in the winter wheat yield.