Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Does Russia have a wheat quality issue?

Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture say there is sufficient volumes of high quality milling grain.

A spokesman from the Department of agricultural markets said that he did not expect any problems with deficit of high quality milling grain in the country.

In June and July of last year I travelled the Black Sea grain growing region and reported that I had never before seen so many lodged cereal crops across Russia.

At one point I drove over 1,700km and saw lodged crops all along a route from Stavropol in the south to Moscow in the north.

It reminded me of the UK in the 1980’s when high nitrogen rates and heavy headed wheat crops fell over all the time until the likes of the HGCA started to do some research into why and more importantly, how to stop it.

Several decades later and a combination of plant breeding, growth regulators and better fertiliser recommendations made lodged crops in the UK all but a thing of the past while in Russia, low fertiliser rates, short straw and small, light ears meant you hardly ever saw it, that was until the summer of 2016.

The difference in 2016 was rain; precipitation through the stem elongation period encouraged crops to grow tall until they reached a tipping point when, encouraged by wind and rain, they just fell over.

The generally accepted result of which would to be a drop in grain quality yet all through this marketing year, like again today, the Russian Ministry of Agriculture have resolutely reported that grain quality is not an issue.

Although wheat exports have started to pick up the pace, they have been slower than expected with analysts citing low prices as the reason why farmers have been slow to let go of their stocks.

Despite the Ministry announcements, I’m starting to wonder if perhaps there might be a quality issue after all.