Old favourites dominate the Group 1 and 2 quality milling wheat market, but new variety Crusoe, with high protein and strong disease resistance, may offer a reliable alternative for growers. Louise Impey reports.

The big question for the Group 1 and 2 winter wheat varieties this year is whether newcomer Crusoe will supplant or support some of the old favourites, millers and seed trade sources alike agree.

“It’s relatively early days for Crusoe and there isn’t much in the ground,” says nabim representative Richard Keeping, of Heygates. “But from what we’ve seen so far, its quality is good and it is every bit as suitable as Solstice for bread making.”

So, for the time being, Solstice will be the variety of choice for most millers, he believes. “It offers a good balance of characteristics to the end user and it mills well. But Gallant also suits our requirements and millers have been pleased with it.”

That view of Gallant is echoed by Peter Jones, national wheat manager for Rank Hovis, who purchases more than 1m tonnes of UK wheat each year, of which some 60-70% are bread-making varieties.

“Gallant is our preferred Group 1 variety, with its consistent performance in milling and baking processes. As a result, we’ve contracted the variety for this coming harvest.”

About 1.5m tonnes of Gallant has been harvested since the variety entered the official trial system in 2007, says Tracy Creasy, of Syngenta.

“The bulk of that has been produced since the variety’s launch in 2009,” she says. “So it’s quite a milestone.”

The only other variety the millers have seen in sizable amounts is the Group 2 stalwart, Cordiale, points out Mr Keeping.

“It’s got everything. Consistent bread-making performance and export use put it in a class of its own in that sector.”

Much less has been seen of the other Group 2s, making it difficult to give them a ranking, he adds.

Bill Handley, of HGCA, says that because disease pressure has been so high this season, it is helping to show growers some of the differences between varieties.

“That’s where Crusoe has been able to tick a lot of boxes,” he says. “It yields well, has a good untreated yield and strong disease resistance ratings, including a 7 for septoria tritici.

“Of particular relevance is the fact it is resistant to the new Warrior yellow rust race.”

Lee Robinson, of Limagrain, is convinced Crusoe will become the biggest-selling Group 1 wheat in a very short space of time.

“The fact Warburtons committed to it ahead of recommendation shows it has exhibited the consistency they like. All of the seed was committed to Warburtons this year, but it will be going to other millers after 2012.”

While the official RL yield figure of 99 puts it on a par with Gallant, he believes Crusoe will show a yield advantage in the field. “It has the highest protein content of all the Group 1 varieties and best disease resistance scores across the entire list.”

Does milling stack up?

Premiums of £15-20/t are needed for milling wheats to be competitive against feed wheat when the grain price is £150/t, calculates David Leaper, arable technical manager with Openfield.

While there’s some variation according to soil type, the figures suggest that min-max contracts will have an important role to play this year and that some varieties will stack up better than others, he predicts.

“Given the recent low spot premium levels, there’s been an understandable drift into high-yielding feed wheats. Stopping this requires a commitment from the millers and a hard look at variety performance from growers.”

On heavy land, his comparison of milling varieties to feed types is based on the highest-yielding Group 4, KWS Santiago. On light land, he has gone for Conqueror.

Yields are based on HGCA Recommended List figures, while costings come from published NIAB TAG gross margins.

“The figures show that we need £15-20/t, depending on soil type. They also highlight how the £20 minimum contract on Crusoe and Solstice (where available with specific contracts) is a better option than going for spot premiums.”

heavy table

light table


Miller backing for Mulika

A £10/t premium over the Group 1 rate will be paid for spring wheat Mulika for harvest 2012 and beyond by Allied Mills.

Mulika’s slightly better performance than either Paragon or Solstice in the baking process means that Allied Mills is keen to have more of the variety, says procurement director Howard Leland.

“We have a tradition of using high-quality spring wheats developed for UK conditions,” he explains. “The £10/t premium applies on the day the wheat is delivered to the mill, and is on top of the Group 1 price.”

Torphins

Just one candidate quality wheat, Torphins from Syngenta, is being assessed as a potential bread-making variety.

With no yield advantage over current choices, its future depends on it being classified as a Group 1, accepts the breeder. Good performance in its first year of trials wasn’t matched in the second year, making its 2012 results critical to its future.

Very stiff and late maturing, Torphins has good resistance to yellow rust but is susceptible to brown rust.