Wheat growers farming within a 50-mile radius of Weetabix’s Burton Latimer site in Northamptonshire now have the opportunity to become a member of the newly formed Weetabix Growers’ Group, visitors to Cereals 2010 were told.

As well as proximity to the Weetabix site, eligible growers must be able to supply specified varieties direct from farm, not via a store, to keep their carbon footprint down.

In addition, no nitrogen fertiliser can be applied to crops after GS47, while wheat grown on land that has had maize on it in the past three years will not qualify either. The latter condition has been included to minimise the risk of fusarium infection and subsequent mycotoxin contamination.

Farms interested in supplying the company with soft wheats must be in either ELS or HLS, highlighting the increasing importance of the green agenda and the company’s desire to support sustainable farming practices that have minimal impact on the environment

Not surprisingly, membership of ACCS is also in the company’s protocols.

Weetabix, which is seeking to recruit contracted growers through agreements with Openfield, Gleadells and Fengrain, is also planning to audit the farms so their provenance and carbon footprint claims can stand up to retailer and consumer scrutiny.

“Growers will have nothing to fear from an inspection,” says Trevor Gates of Gleadells. “This type of initiative is exactly what British farming needs.”

For this coming harvest, named varieties Scout, Claire, Alchemy, Robigus, Viscount, Zebedee and Einstein will be purchased from farms in the designated catchment area, with the first deliveries being made in August 2010.

Fengrain’s Martin Bamforth said the protocols were still being discussed and stressed that Weetabix is keen to get feedback from growers who want to be involved. “It sees this as a two-way process,” he commented. “The formation of a growers’ group means that they can consult members, working together to improve quality and processes, while being able to promote a brand with British wheat at its core.”

Keeping road miles down will be a key condition of membership of the Weetabix Growers’ Group, as will care for the countryside. Looking ahead, the company is also considering specifying wheat varieties with high levels of resistance to fusarium.