The French wheat harvest in 2019: Both quantity and quality at the rendezvous

by Antoine Tanguy, French-editions Coordinator, Milling and Grain, France


The 2018/2019 French wheat season started as it ended, with extreme heat and drought. Despite these conditions, the quantity cropped is very satisfying, with a record harvest for common wheat. The qualitative aspects are also good, however, there are differences between each region.

Weather conditions
During autumn, the lack of precipitation caused a delay as well as an absence of false seedlings. However, the rain and mild temperatures in November helped stabilise the situation in the early winter. The soils remained dry in January and February, with just minimal precipitation.
The end of tillering and the beginning of the joint stage took place with alternating rain and dry weather, and cool temperatures with heat peaks, thus, the surface soils were not very favourable for crops, with water stress and a nitrogen deficiency. Deep soils were favorable for the density of the ear, resulting in a high biomass. Cool temperatures also favoured sustained growth.
Finally, in June, France experienced an important and intense heat wave. The consequences of these high temperatures were thankfully not damaging to harvests. In the southern part of the country, the filling being completed, the strong heat waves did not cause a loss of yield.
In the northern half, the filling was still in progress, temperatures exceeding 35°C resulted in a loss of yield, but less significant than expected. On the one hand, this was because the initial potential of 2019's crop was imported, on the other hand because there were few diseases and the heat led to more sunshine and therefore additional photosynthesis (insofar as water was available).

Durum wheat and part of the common wheat crop was harvested between the end of June and the end of July. The absence of rain allowed a low humidity rate while maintaining a suitable specific weight.
FranceAgriMer and Arvalis conducted analyses and tests on 561 samples of common wheat and 134 of durum wheat (before entering the silo, without any handling being done by the storage organisations).

Wheat results:

  • Low moisture rate, due to drought and temperatures at harvest time. This guarantees better conservation and storage and also meets the criteria of wheat buyers
  • A particularly high specific weight, with a national average of 79.5kg/hl (best SW of the last twenty years). 83% of the harvest has a specific weight of 78kg/hl or more
  • A satisfactory protein rate with an average nationwide of 11.5%. Two-thirds of the crop has a protein level between 11 and 12% and more than half of the crop exceeds the rate of 11.5%
  • Relatively good Hagberg fall time given the weather conditions during filling and ripening. 92% of the harvest exceeds 300 seconds
  • A baking strength (W) of 186 on average. Two-thirds of the crop is above 170, which meets the needs of French and foreign millers

The quantity of common wheat harvested in France in 2019 reached 39.4mt, an increase of 15.8% compared to the previous year.

Durum wheat results:

  • Like common wheat, the moisture rates seen in durum samples are low due to the heat wave in summer 2019
  • A very high specific weight, the highest in the last three years, with an average of 80.2kg/hl. In total, 65% of durum wheat has a specific weight that exceeds 80kg/hl
  • A very high protein rate. The average for durum wheat this year is 13.9%. Almost three quarters of the durum wheat harvested exceeds a protein content of 13.5%
  • Hagberg's fall times are also very good, with three-quarters of the crop exceeding 350 seconds, due to the lack of precipitation during the filling and ripening stages

Total durum wheat harvested this year is 1.5mt, down 14.8% from the 2014-2018 five-year average. Indeed, the total surface cropped has been reduced of 25% (still compared to the five-year average).

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