Analysis carried out by the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) in Britain confirms that the average nitrogen content of barley is the lowest since records began in 1977.

The Cereal Quality Survey, which analysed 26,513 barley samples from across England, Scotland and Wales, showed an average nitrogen content of 1.53%, lower than the three-year average of 1.68% and the lowest recorded result. In addition, grain size is currently above the three-year average. The average specific weight, however, was lower than that recorded in August this year.

HGCA analysts Dr Amandeep Kaur Purewal, said: “Overall, barley quality is reasonable in terms of specific weight and grain size, and the low average nitrogen levels this year will be beneficial to the distilling sector. However, for brewers, who require a higher nitrogen content, this could lead to a more challenging year ahead.”

For wheat, the survey for 71,106 samples revealed a slight deterioration in quality compared with the initial results published at the end of August. However, specific weights and Hagbergs are still close to or above average.

Dr Purewal added: “The average protein content remains the limiting factor in meeting milling specifications, although millers do have the option to compensate for this by adding further gluten or imported wheat to the flour mix at an extra cost.  However, there are also some technical limitations with adding extra gluten depending on the end-use. The decline in quality from the previous estimates is unsurprising given that more nabim group 3 and group 4 varieties now comprise the overall wheat sample.”

Of the 26,513 barley samples analysed, the majority originate from Scotland (32%) and Eastern England (31%). Spring barley varieties accounted for 72% of the sample data analysed.

Compared with the GB average, the average specific weight and nitrogen content for Scottish barley is lower at 65.1kg/hl and 1.45% respectively. At 96.3%, the proportion of Scottish grain retained by a 2.5mm sieve is higher than the GB average.