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News 973 views last update:14 Jan 2016

Belgian wheat contains too little protein

This year, the protein levels in Belgian wheat are very low. The grain collectors therefore want the nitrogen use standards broadening.

The low protein levels are caused by the tightening of nitrogen standards, according to Synagra, the Belgian association of grain collectors. In studies from Denmark it was shown that the protein levels in wheat and barley declined from 11.5% in 1990 to 8.5% in 2012. "This resulted in an increase of soy for the feed sector during this period, costing the Danish agricultural sector between 200 and 400 million euro", according to Synagra.

The same situation can be seen in Belgium says Synagra. The low protein levels hamper the sales of grain for the milling and the starch industry. Deliveries are sometimes refused because the protein content is lower than 10%. This makes the grain unsuitable for use in bread, pastry or biscuits. The grain is then used for animal feed.

Synagra raised the alarm because the Flemish government will soon present the fifth manure action plan. According to the Belgian grain trade, nitrogen  norms are set too low to get enough protein in the crops. Synagra advocates a fertiliser norm per lot and says that farmers will not fertilise unnecessary amounts when these norms are set. The fertilisers are simply too expensive to overuse them.

The Dutch government recently increased the fertiliser norms for clay soils, at the request of the grain buyers. In turn, the farmer must prove that he has produced a certain yield.

Jan Engwerda and Emmy Koeleman

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