Consistency is key for successful milling wheat - Alex Wilcox - Anglia Farmer

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  • Match top nutrition to wheat variety
  • Profit and investment vital for future
  • Good opportunities to supply millers

Eastern region growers from three counties celebrated success at this year's recent AHDB Milling Wheat Conference – highlighting the importance of good links between farmers and millers to produce excellent quality bread for consumers.

Meeting specification to ensure consistency for all players in the supply chain was a key theme from the conference-along with a focus on the customer and the need to be sustainable and profitable going forwards.

The one-day event saw the winners announced for the YEN Wheat Quality Awards, sponsored by agronomists Hutchinsons. The awards recognise excellence and innovation in achieving consistent, high quality wheat yields.

Alex Wilcox YEN first place milling wheat 2019

Norfolk grower Alex Wilcox was unveiled as the winner for harvest 2018. He fought off stiff competition from Cambridgeshire grower Sam Markillie, who was runner-up; and Essex grower Richard Carr, who came third.


Grain quality

Mark Charlton, from Allied Technical Centre and chair of the Nabim variety working group, said: “The winning entry demonstrated great grain quality, good gluten rheology and produced the best loaves with excellent colour, structure and texture.”

Mr Wilcox farms 250ha at Stowbridge, near Downham Market. His entry was the highest yielding and achieved 12.16t/ha. It also achieved the highest protein yield of 1.35t/ha. Mr Wilcox said he was keen to push the farm's yield boundaries.

"For me, the key elements for growing quality milling wheat are a healthy, well-structured soil, achieved through organic matter applications and soil management. It involves attention to detail in agronomy from seed bed conditions and nutrition through to fungicides."

The conference brought together growers, breeders, agronomists, millers and merchants to exchange knowledge and share best practice. The event emphasised the role of quality from variety selection, agronomy management and post-harvest storage through to milling and baking.

Miller George Mason, senior executive at Heygates, said all sectors of agriculture faced various challenges – from production and logistics, through to primary and secondary manufacture. It was important to bring together the supply chain to try to boost efficiency.


Profitable production

"We are trying to ensure food supplies for our country, especially in these political times of uncertainty," said Mr Mason. "We have to be working together to stay in profit and invest in the future."

ADAS crop physiologist Sarah Clarke discussed effective nutrition programmes for milling wheat. Variety choice and nutrition are both key to achieving bread-making quality - as well as crop management, she told listeners.

"Growers can benchmark and learn more about their quality from entering the YEN Wheat Quality Award and could think about carrying out tramline trials for nutrition programmes to see what could be achieved on their farm."

The conference was closed by AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds strategy director Martin Grantley-Smith. Despite ongoing Brexit uncertainty, there would always be great opportunities for the UK milling wheat supply chain, he said.

"We produce very good quality products. However, we must not be complacent and we must continue to strive to ensure our quality remains high and consistent, as well as delivering in the most cost-effective manner:"


Wheat Quality Award winners

First: Alex Wilcox, A&J Wilcox, King's Lynn, Norfolk.

Second: Sam Markillie, Arthur Markillie Ltd, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

Third: Richard Carr, LE Carr & Sons, Maldon, Essex.