Farming: China’s hoard of grain reserves

While climate change and biodiversity crises were to the fore at yesterday’s Arable Scotland, food security and productivity issues were firmly on the menu.

With the war in Ukraine leading to considerable disruption across the global grain market, SRUC economist Julian Bell revealed that although world grain stocks had been tightening before the conflict started it was estimated that there was still 97 days worth of reserve across the globe:

“However what is much more difficult is knowing how much of that is actually available should there be need to call upon it.” He said that much of the reserve lay in China which he said was currently hoarding grain - and the ability to get free stock from the conflict zone was another unknown.

Looking to sustainability and the increasing price of inputs, the college’s Professor Fiona Burnett called on soft wheat breeders to up their game and to introduce similar levels of disease resistance currently seen in many hard wheat varieties into the soft wheats which were required for the Scottish market.

Also on controlling input prices, Syngenta barley breeder, Sarah Hughes, said that hybrid winter barleys had the potential to offer benefits – with superior nitrogen use efficiency allowing the yield of conventional varieties to be matched using 20% less fertiliser.

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On the variety choice of Scotland’s main cereal crop, malting barley, SRUC’s Steve Hoad said that the recent dropping from malting trials of the spring barley Tungsten meant that, with the exception of Firefox there was unlikely to be any serious newcomers becoming commercially available over the next two or three years.

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