As featured in Arable Farming Magazine

Greener marker to drive change in the milling sector

by Arable Farming Magazine April issue

The milling sector faces challenges around its environmental footprint and nitrogen use in its quest for 13% grain protein.

Pressure on the food supply chain to reduce its carbon footprint is growing, but what does this mean for milling wheat? Greenhouse gas emissions from milling wheat are some 15% higher than for feed wheat and there is pressure building from both regulators and customers to reduce the crop’s environmental impact.

Joe Brennan, senior technical adviser for Flour Millers UK, (formerly nabim), said: “Carbon footprinting hasn’t really kicked off yet, but the ball is rolling.

As we enter a greener market there will be customers wanting to differentiate themselves for the consumer [in this way].”

Linked into the debate are issues around the cost and availability of domestic, high protein wheat because breeders are struggling to marry up the protein quality that millers are looking for in Group 1 varieties, with yield traits.

“In 2015 we saw a boom in high yielding Group 1s.

But KWS Zyatt was the last high yielding bread variety to join the list and we haven’t had any for a number of years,” Mr Brennan said.

“From 2020, the area of Group 1s grown declined which is no surprise given newer varieties [in other groups] with better agronomic packages are finding their way into the market place.”

So what is stopping millers accepting lower proteins? “A percentage of 12.5 is a more attractive destination for growers to sell to.

But one of the issues is with the typical protein quality of UK wheat; less than 13% protein will not give you the consistent strength needed for breadmaking flours.

Disconnect “Some businesses will look to top up their protein with high protein imported wheat from North America and Canada.

However, these are expensive and not an option for UK-only flour.

Plus, if we’re going to have a conversation about carbon footprinting, there may be a disconnect between using less N to cut carbon and then importing wheat.”

Another option is adding gluten to bump up the protein, but this does not quite replicate the functionality of naturally occurring wheat protein and can dull the colour of the bread crumb.

Significant pressure for food processors to reduce salt, which modifies gluten and increases strength, is also adding to the challenge.

“As salt levels are pushed lower and lower, protein is being pushed up to compensate,” he added.

While specification reductions may not yet be on the horizon, there are ways the industry can continue to address emissions, said Mr Brennan.

“We need to improve our understanding of genes underpinning protein functionality, identify those traits and breed them into varieties.

We also need to improve NUE and our understanding of best timing and rates for N applications in terms of bread making quality.

Things like late foliar N sprays currently have a divergence of opinions on how useful they are.”

YEN winners’ secrets to milling specification success

Crusoe was top of the crops in this year’s YEN milling wheat category, with all three winners growing the variety.

It is the only Group 1 variety that Yorkshire farmer and gold winner Peter Trickett grows because he finds it easier to manage one variety in store and Crusoe is consistent and reliable on his soils.

He said: “Crusoe is weak on brown rust which can be a big problem for farmers south of the Humber, but where we are [near Leeds] it is not a problem for us.

My second choice would be Skyfall which is OWBM resistant, but it needs more nitrogen to reach protein spec and is very susceptible to yellow rust.”

He has been reducing foliar urea use on crops and his winning 11.2 tonnes/hectare YEN crop had none applied but still hit protein spec.

“This saves us cost, operation and risk of scorch.

I also think it helps quality,” Mr Trickett said.

He does not apply much P and K either, but sulphur is important.

He applied 300kg/ha of nitrogen in four splits to his winning crop – one in March, two in April and the final in early May just before flag leaf emergence to help protein and aid yield.

The only trace element he applied was manganese and he does not use biostimulants.

Since the loss of chlorothalonil, Mr Trickett has dropped the T0 fungicide.

At T1 he applied fluxapyroxad and prothioconazole plus folpet, fluxapyroxad + mefentrifluconazole at T2 and he always applies a T3 for the yield benefit.

“This tops up septoria control on the flag leaf and controls ear diseases like fusarium.

We use prothioconazole + tebuconazole at the start of flowering.”

Chlormequat is also applied at GS30, GS31 and GS37-39.

Mr Trickett’s winning crop was drilled on September 27, 2020, at a seedrate of 270 seeds/sq.m

Digital grain passports

The first digital grain passport pilots are set to be rolled out at the beginning of next year in a move away from the ‘archaic’ paper system that has been used for decades.

A key change to the system will be the ability to send delivery data back to the merchant, grower and haulier quickly.

The passport will be accessed via a smartphone or tablet device.

George Mason, senior executive at Heygates, said: “This return of delivery data means getting weighbridge data back instantaneously.

As far as farmers are concerned there will be a lab analysis looking at moisture, bushel weight, protein and other important information.

This will only be seen by the participants and players in that delivery – no-one else sees it.”

This will lead to a massive reduction in paperwork and greater visibility for all parties, he said.

“It is the evolution of an outdated system.

We are a multi-billion-pound industry – we have got to move forward”

Addressing his own concerns over data security, Mr Mason said: “We have all this data already – it is just on paper.

This system will hold a lot of data, but this will be governed by a committee who will not sell data for commercial gain.

How do we know Russians aren’t going to hack into it? My business is absolutely paranoid about being hacked.

We do as much as we possibly can and we think we’re pretty safe.”

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2022-06-08T16:47:22+01:00June 8th, 2022|Blog Post|
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