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 second batch 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, expand the sections below.
  • The second CQS survey provides an update on the preliminary figures that made clear the effects of a difficult growing season. Despite the inclusion of additional samples, wheat quality has failed to improve to desired levels, with the majority of samples missing bread milling specification. As of this release, GB protein levels sit at their lowest since 2015/16.
  • For barley, the CQS updated results has brought a reduction in average grain nitrogen levels. This update includes samples harvested during the wetter end of August and into September. The shift in location of samples, later harvest dates and subsequent crop maturity levels may have contributed to the decline in average grain nitrogen levels.
  • In this update, there is a picture for Scottish barley too, with 48% of the sample originating from Scotland. The average grain nitrogen level is higher in English samples, perhaps due to brewing specifications permitting higher N levels of up to 1.75% N and 1.85% for export brewing markets, compared with up to 1.65% for distilling. The drier conditions seen for many weeks across the country may have had an effect also. Moisture content has increased on the preliminary 2020 results, particularly for spring varieties. Screenings are at a better level for both winter and spring varieties compared to the second CQS release last season.
  • The final results of the Cereal Quality Survey will be published in November.

The second Cereal Quality Survey results for 2020 largely stay consistent with the preliminary results published last month. These results include samples harvested during the heavy rain late in August and mid-September. The proportion of nabim Group 1 wheat samples able to meet the UK high quality milling specification (Protein – 13%, HFN – 250 secs, Specific weight – 76Kg/hl) remains at 31% from the preliminary results, and is fourteen percentage points below the second set of results published last year. This year sits 7.2% below the five year average of second report samples meeting nabim Group 1 spec.

The total number of wheat samples is at 3,975, up 1,716 from the preliminary results. This is 43% lower than the second report last year, indicating a significantly lower tonnage being sampled this season, a possible reflection of the change in sampling practices in light of coronavirus. This second release includes a more well-rounded representation of GB regions and nabim groups. With the GB wheat harvest 98% complete as of 22 Sept, it is unlikely that further weather impacts on unharvested area will alter the quality survey results considerably.

At 79.3 kg/hl, the average specific weight is lower than the 79.6 kg/hl obtained for the results in September, but is the highest result now seen since 1990. Group 1 samples have recorded high specific weights at an average of 79.9 kg/hl compared to 78.0 kg/hl for the second release last year.

The average Hagberg Falling Number is recorded at 309 seconds, down from 313 seconds obtained for the preliminary results in September. This is the second highest recording since 2013, after 2018. A fall in the figures from the September report was expected, given the large wheat acreage that was affected by rainfall and harvested after the mid-August cut off period for the first release. The average HFN for nabim Group 1 samples is at 328 seconds with a range of 166 – 439 seconds. The second release last year saw Group 1 samples at 321 seconds with a range of 169 – 437 seconds.

The GB average protein level, at 12.2% is lower than the 12.3% obtained for results in September. Specifically for nabim Group 1 varieties, average protein levels are estimated at 12.7%, unchanged from September, highlighting why less than a third of samples so far have hit bread milling specifications.

The updated results are based on 8,366 barley samples, almost four times as many from September. The majority of samples originate from Scotland (48%) and the South East of England (17%), with spring barley comprising 82% of the total sample size currently. Final results may still vary from previously reported this year as sample size likely increases.

At 15.8%, the average moisture content has increased from 14.0% reported in September. This was expected given the Spring Barley harvest was at 19% completed around the cut-off period for first provisional report sample collection. The rainfall that fell over late August affected quality of unharvested crops, with lodging prevalent.

The average specific weight of 64.4 kg/hl is down from the 66.5 kg/hl recorded in September. This latest figure is above the 2019 final figure of 64.1 kg/hl but remains below the final figure in the 2018 year of 66.5 kg/hl. Against the three-year final average, it is 0.9% below.

With the addition of later harvested samples, the average grain nitrogen content is at 1.63%, down from 1.83% in the preliminary report. One factor in the decline in average N content is a greater proportion of the overall sample being of Scottish origin. In Scotland, distilling markets desire a lower nitrogen content and so a portion of Scottish samples will aim for that specification. For spring barley specifically, the nitrogen content is 1.61%, whilst winter barley is at 1.77%. The winter barley harvest was 98% completed in WE11 August and was largely unaffected by the wetter weather.

Screenings results for both winter and spring barley remain improved year-on-year. However, the proportion of spring barley retained by a 2.5mm sieve is down to 95.8% versus 96.7% in September. Results are up against the second report last year at 93.9%. Against final results, this year is currently the highest since 2014.

Cereal Quality Calculator

This clever tool lets you see the relationship between the three markers for wheat quality – Hagberg falling number, specific weight and protein content. You can explore the data by selecting different groups, varieties or areas, as well as changing the specified ranges of the quality markers.

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