Cereal Quality Survey

The Cereal Quality Survey is an annual survey looking at the key parameters of wheat and barley quality for the most recent harvest.


  • The preliminary Cereal Quality Survey results for harvest 2020/21 are now available. For the full tables of results use the download link located at the side of this page. For an explanation of the results and for the wheat quality diagrams, expand the sections below.
  • Wheat quality this season is considerably poorer than last season. Protein levels in particular have struggled to meet spec, affected greatly by the detrimental growing season. The reduced production figure this season means availability of milling quality wheat is much lower, with a greater volume of imports thus required. The blending of domestic samples with higher protein wheat, where possible is also an option for millers.
  • Both winter and spring barley varieties have seen higher grain nitrogen levels this season. UK malting barley premiums currently sit at narrower levels than the same point last season. Much lower moisture content in samples are seen this season for spring varieties. Screenings have improved for both winter and spring varieties when compared to the initial CQS release last season.

The results of the first Cereal Quality Survey for 2020 make clear the effects of a dire crop growth season. These results are as of mid-August, and so were unaffected by the heavy rainfall bands that fell over the second half of the month. The proportion of nabim Group 1 wheat samples able to meet the UK milling specification (Protein – 13%, HFN – 250 secs, Specific weight – 76Kg/hl) has fallen to 31%, twenty-four percentage points below the first set of results published last year.

With less than a third of samples meeting full milling spec, the significance of imported supply is made clear. Negative implications for crop quality were likely given the detrimental weather conditions throughout the season. The slight delays to crop maturity levels have meant grain dryers have seen substantial volume pass through this season. As of 18 Aug, wheat harvest progress was estimated at 59%, meaning that we could see some implication for Hagberg Falling Numbers on the remaining area of the crop hit by mid to late-August rainfall. Imports of milling spec wheat will be needed to meet the deficit this season.

The relatively slow start to some wheat harvests across the UK were further hampered by bands of rainfall that passed over the UK. With two further updates to our CQS survey, the subsequent releases will include quality figures impacted by this rainfall.

The preliminary results for barley point towards higher nitrogen levels for both spring and winter barley versus the same release last year. This is to be expected following the drought-like conditions throughout the later spring months. At an average of 1.83% grain nitrogen content, many samples are above the desired range of 1.55% - 1.75% in order to meet traditional malting, brewing and distilling barley specifications. It does however, meet the spec for export brewing markets where the range is up to 1.85%. This is somewhat beneficial given the likely large barley export campaign this season.

Average moisture content this season in spring barley samples is considerably lower, highlighting the effect of the lack of rainfall for much of the growing season. A lower starting moisture content will aid in reducing drying costs, most likely for winter varieties given the earlier harvest window. 

First provisional screenings results for both winter and spring barley are showing as improved year-on-year. The proportion of spring barley retained by a 2.5mm sieve is 96.7% versus 93.6% at the same stage last year. Anecdotal reports suggests screenings are poorer year-on-year and we would expect this to be reflected in future releases.

Additional information

The calculator shows three overlapping circles with a number in each section. Each number relates to the percentage of the overall sample that falls within the range of each quality marker. As a default, it is set to show the current year's results for nabim group one. For further information please refer to our Cereals Quality Calculator guide below.

Cereal Quality Calculator guide