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Cereals Report 2016

Cope Seeds & Grain visited the 2016 Cereals Event which allowed us to take a look at more disease-resistant varieties to gain more of an insight into the effects of the grain prices and their future.

Many of the plant breeders we work very closely with exhibited at the event and displayed plant varieties which are said to be cheaper to grow to give growers some breathing space from the profits crunch.

A key theme from the day across plant breeders was with regards to wheat varieties and the improved septoria resistance. It also appeared that there would be better marketability on offer for this autumn.

The Syngenta stand displayed work on more disease-resistant varieties and had identified the key issues facing growers. This included better disease control in order to push yields forward.

One particular winter wheat feed variety which stood out was Graham which has one of the best septoria resistance ratings available as well as a high yield.

KWS were also at the event and felt that in recent years, there has been too much feed wheat around and that growers require varieties which are marketable and give a good return and so KWS have focused on these characteristics.

As a result of this, KWS have introduced the winter wheat variety Siskin, which aims to give growers a sense of security from its good disease resistance.

Siskin has the best resistance to septoria on the Recommended List, shows top scores against yellow rust and mildew. Being a Group 2 milling wheat, Siskin can offer a premium over feed wheat, and also will be available this autumn.

After speaking to growers, it is apparent that there is a strong interest in milling wheats in order to gain a price premium. RAGT are supporting this interest and have launched the wheat variety Illustrious. This has already attracted attention and will be available this autumn.

Illustrious is a breadmaking variety shows high protein levels and it is said that it could tempt millers to accept protein contents below the industry standard of 13%, which would be easier and cheaper for growers to achieve.

All the millers have shown interest in Illustrious as well as other favourites such as Skyfall and Crusoe and if millers accept lower protein levels for harvest 2017 then growers can also achieve strong levels of nitrogen.

Whilst looking around the Cereals site, we were also keen to be updated with developments in seed treatments.

When seed treatments were first developed, seed and soil borne diseases such as bunt and leaf stripe were rife in UK crops, and yield losses could reach 100%. A century later, on-seed technology has come a long way, affording sophisticated control of diseases and protection for crops from the start.

At the Cereals event, Bayer demonstrated that over the next few years, they aim to introduce three new seed treatments for cereals, including a fungicide and two insecticides, one of which is particularly effective in the control of slugs, with the added benefits of improved safety towards non-target insects.

Blackgrass control remains a very hot topic in the arable sector here in the UK. From the Cereals Event, the key advice continued to be as before, with the combination of weed control measures and non-chemical methods, in order to reduce the need for herbicides. Rotational planning should be at the heart of any strategy. Where non-cereal crops are included in the rotation, blackgrass infestations are reduced and alternative herbicides can be used. More balanced rotations are needed for a number of reasons and grass weed control is just one of these.

The following are some of the non-chemical methods available:

  • Ploughing Delayed drilling
  • Higher seed rates
  • Competitive varieties
  • Spring cropping
  • Fallow or grass ley breaks

With our business also being involved in the grain trade, it was of great interest to us getting an industry focus on the grain markets going forward. Last month the average Nov-16 UK feed wheat futures price was 3% above the spot market average in November 2015. We can see that this three year deflationary trend is likely to be coming to an end. It is still not certain how this will impact on procurement strategies and the competitive retail environment remains to be seen.

The AHDB believe that grain and oilseed markets focus is very much centred on impacts caused by the weather. The current conditions in the US and EU wheat areas have stirred markets at this crucial time for yield development but have not but as yet these affected  2016/17 crop forecasts.

The Black Sea Region has raised uncertainty around wheat quality, due to persistent rain. Over a fifth of the world’s wheat exports are now sourced from Russia and Ukraine and so any events happening there cause nervousness to the markets.

There are some concerns with protein levels and disease prevalence and so if the proportion of milling quality wheat is affected, this could raise the possibility of the Black Sea contributing to European feed grain supplies in 2016/17. With UK wheat currently enjoying competitiveness due to relatively high maize prices and currency weakness, this could take the attention away from UK exports.

At the moment, it is a case of wait and see, but early harvest reports will be awaited with interest.