The wheat crop in Britain – which accounts for the vast majority of the UK harvest – is proving better than last year’s on all vital signs, with lower moisture content, and higher specific weight, which measures the density of grains, with larger numbers implying a better milling performance.
"High specific weights may go some way to compensate for the lower yields reported in the UK, via higher flour extraction rates," the Home Grown Cereals Authority, which undertook the analysis, said in a preliminary report.
The initial specific weight number, of 79.8 kilogrammes per hectolitre, would be the biggest since at least the 1980s if confirmed in a final result expected in November.
Protein levels have averaged 12.3%, up 0.4 points year on year, and suggesting there would be "few issues" with farmers suffering penalties for crops missing out on contracted specifications, the HGCA said.
On the so-called Hagberg falling number, which measures the degree to which grain has sprouted, reached a five year high of 284 seconds, with a larger number indicating higher starch levels and greater suitability for milling.
The data follow widespread talk of a superior-quality crop, even if yields, at 7.5-7.7 tonnes per hectare, are expected behind the average of 7.8 tonnes per hectare, a report published by the HGCA said last week.
"In spite of weather scares in some areas, the quality of the UK wheat crop this year does seem to be outstanding," the UK grain arm of a commodities multinational said.
Improvement has been particularly evident in the South West, where the specific weight hit 81 kilogrammes per hectolitre for the first time since easily-accessible records begin in 1983, and the Hagberg falling number regained ground lost in wet harvests over the previous three years.
However, crops in eastern areas worse affected by the spring drought also scored higher than in recent years on their specifications.
By grade, biggest improvement was seen in the lower-grade wheats which account for the majority of the UK crop.
The so-called group-3 wheats of low milling quality, usually seen suitable only for biscuit makers rather than bread makers, achieved a Hagberg falling number of 249 seconds – only 1 second short of the cut-off designating high-grade grain.