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 third and final set of Cereal Quality Survey results for harvest 2020 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, make sure to expand the sections below.
  • The final CQS survey provides an encompassing close to the quality figures that help to provide insight into the effects of a challenging growing season. Despite the inclusion of additional samples, wheat quality has remained challenging but manageable, with 32% of nabim Group 1 samples meeting the desired milling spec (13% protein, 250s Hagberg Falling Number (HFN) and 76kg/hl specific weight). With this final release, the average GB protein level, at 12.3%, remains at its lowest since 2015/16.
  • Looking at barley, the final CQS results have shown increased average GB grain nitrogen levels, with this seen most in spring barley samples. High nitrogen levels have been a particular issue in English samples. This can be attributed to several factors, including later crop maturity levels and prolonged dryness. With Scottish samples holding a smaller share of the overall sample, GB nitrogen levels have increased from the last release.

The final Cereal Quality Survey results for 2020/21 show wheat quality has improved marginally versus the second set of results, published at the start of October. The proportion of nabim Group 1 wheat samples able to meet the UK high quality milling specification (13% protein, 250s Hagberg Falling Number (HFN) and 76kg/hl specific weight) increased by 1 percentage point on the second provisional results, to 32%. The final proportion meeting a full specification is 10 percentage points below last season and 5 percentage points below the five year average. 

This season, the total number of wheat samples is at 10,011, an increase of 6,036 from the second results. This is marginally lower than the final report last year, a possible reflection of the change in sampling practices in light of coronavirus. The availability of samples meeting a high quality milling specification is lessened this season as a result of poorer quality and a smaller wheat crop.

Specific weights have declined from the previous report in October, now averaging 78.6 kg/hl across all grades, this is still the highest seen since 2015/16. Group 1 samples have recorded high specific weights at an average of 79.4 kg/hl compared to 77.8 kg/hl for the final release last season.

The average Hagberg Falling Number is recorded at 296 seconds, down from 309 seconds obtained for the preliminary results in October. A fall in the figures from both the September and October report was somewhat expected. This was a result of rainfall towards the end of August. The average HFN for nabim Group 1 samples is at 322 seconds. Hagberg Falling Number’s across the Eastern region of England averaged 294 seconds.

The GB average protein level, at 12.3% increased slightly on the 12.2% obtained for results in October. Small increases were also seen for nabim Group 1 samples with the average protein level now estimated at 12.8%, up 0.1% from October. Domestic premiums for bread milling wheat have increased this season, given the reduced home-grown availability. Imports of high protein wheat have started the season strong, as a result of the poorer home-grown availability this season. These imports will likely be blended in with domestic tonnages to raise protein levels to desired specifications.

The final quality results are based on 12,886 barley samples, an increase of 54% from October. Scotland accounts for 35 - 39% of the total sample, though the share has declined 10% from the previous report. Eastern England (15 - 20%) and the South West (11 -16%) also feature with spring barley forming 91% of the total sample size.

The average specific weight of 64.2 kg/hl is down slightly from the 64.4 kg/hl recorded in October, and 1.2% below the three year average of 65.0 kg/hl. However, this final figure is above the 2019/20 final estimate of 64.1 kg/hl.

The addition of more samples in this final release has resulted in an increase to the average grain nitrogen content. The majority of these additional samples are of English origin, where we have seen higher than normal nitrogen content this season. The GB average grain nitrogen content for the 2020/21 season is estimated at 1.70%. Scottish samples, at 1.47% grain nitrogen, have tied with last season for their lowest grain nitrogen level since 2015.

Average nitrogen levels for Eastern samples are estimated at 1.89%, the region’s highest since 2011. With export brewing markets seeking a maximum of 1.85%, a majority of Eastern samples may have to look to feed markets for an end-market. An increase in feed barley availability is seen with a greater volume of samples missing specifications.

From a GB view, for spring barley specifically, the nitrogen content is at 1.69%, whilst winter barley is at 1.76%.

Screenings results for both spring and winter barley continue to be better than last season. However, the proportion of GB barley retained by a 2.5mm sieve is down marginally, to 95.4%, versus 95.6% in October’s release. Results are improved compared to the three-year average of 93.7%. Against final results, this season’s screening levels show the highest proportion retained by a 2.5mm sieve since 2014.

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