The recently announced Recommended Lists for 2010 contain some useful – and not so useful – additions, especially in the winter wheat category, where the six newcomers were given a very mixed reception. Louise Impey reports


The disappointing lack of an outstanding addition to any of the wheat market sectors is the main feedback from commentators, following last week’s launch of the new lists.

“There’s a good selection of me-too varieties,” says Dave Robinson of The Arable Group. “Nothing really stands out.”

Like others, he predicts that all six will struggle to make a market impact, as none are without their difficulties. “A successful wheat is one that either mills or yields. The promise that a variety is cheap or easy to grow just doesn’t appeal to growers.”

Wheat 
Successful wheats must mill or yield. Being cheap or easy to grow is not enough for varieties to fill barns next season.

KWS Sterling

In the Group 2 sector, both KWS Sterling and Kingdom face an uphill struggle, experts agree, despite the fact that lower protein wheats are widely used by millers.

Mark Ringrose of ADM Milling says the company has launched buyback contracts with Gleadell Agriculture for KWS Sterling for next harvest. He reckons the variety has good milling and baking attributes that complement the company’s gristing requirements.

“We have collaborated closely with breeder KWS to identify and develop varieties which can be used across our range of flours. This approach helps with variety development – the success of Cordiale is a good example of this.”

NIAB cereals specialist Clare Leaman says the key question with both of the new Group 2 varieties is whether they offer enough to make growers change.

KWS Sterling has a yield of 102, but has lower quality than some established Group 2 choices, she notes. “At this stage, it’s equivalent to Panorama and we don’t yet know if it will be easy to sell.”

Lee Bennett of Openfield is unimpressed. “There is a limited contract for it for 2010, but it’s based on 12.5% protein. That’s going to be very difficult to achieve – at 11.4% KWS Sterling has even lower protein content than Xi19.”

He maintains that, despite being very short, it is weak without PGRs. “That makes it an agronomic challenge. Everything you do in the early season is critical. And it doesn’t have second-wheat performance to fall back on either.”

In Scotland, Steve Hoad will be keeping an eye on how it performs this year. “It’s too early to call, although our initial caution is based around its protein content. However, it has a good Hagberg.”

Marion Self of Prime Agriculture stresses that it all comes down to end user preference and whether new varieties offer the chance to earn good premiums.

“The market is quite happy with Cordiale. Having a choice of Group 2s is a good thing, but neither of the new additions have orange wheat blossom midge resistance to make them stand out from the crowd.”

KWS Sterling has the better agronomic package in terms of disease resistance, she says. “But the protein content is low and that will be an issue for some.”

Kingdom

The reason for Kingdom’s inclusion on the HGCA Recommended List is a mystery to the seed trade and independents alike.

Barry Barker of Masstock says that as neither Panorama nor Ketchum have attracted much support, he can’t see why either of this year’s Group 2 additions is going to be any different.

“Kingdom is at the higher end of the quality spectrum,” he comments. “But there’s more reason to grow Gallant. And compared to Cordiale, Kingdom’s not as early or stiff.”

Mr Bennett is concerned about Kingdom’s poor yield in the north, as is Dr Hoad. And David Waite of Frontier Agriculture, who looks after the company’s seed supplies in the Midlands and the north, has limited demand for Group 2s.

“Premiums are going to be difficult to achieve with both new choices. And Kingdom isn’t suitable for the north anyway.”

Nabim’s verdict on Kingdom’s variability between seasons is mentioned by Mrs Leaman. “Both growers and end users hate variability. So, at this stage, Kingdom has its work cut out.”

Invicta

Invicta 
Invicta gets the thumbs up from experts who expect it to sell out.

Invicta, Nickerson’s new soft Group 3 wheat, received a very different response from the experts, with most predicting that it will sell out in its first commercial year.

But not everyone is totally convinced about its end-user appeal, even though there is a market need for a high yielding Group 3 variety which meets biscuit, distilling and export specifications.

“The dedicated Group 3 grower should look at it for a bit longer,” advises Ms Self. “It has a specific weight which is a bit low and it’s not ideal for a Group 3 to be a late variety.”

However, its 8 rating for yellow rust and high yield are good points and both will be appreciated, she notes.

Mr Bennett predicts Invicta will take good market share and he likens it to Alchemy, only shorter. “There are no glaring holes, but we’ll have to wait and see whether the markets want to buy it.”

Mrs Leaman says it should be welcomed as it offers advantages and seems to have the same level of miller support as Robigus. “It gets a medium rating for distilling, which is good enough, although it’s early days on the quality front.”

While its specific weight is a bit low, it’s not a disaster, she adds. “The lateness may put some people off and we could see Scout bouncing back as a result. It suits a lot of people.”

In Scotland, Invicta should fit well and is one of two of the new varieties which will tempt Scottish cereal growers, says Dr Hoad. “It looks promising for biscuits and gets the nod for distilling.”

Its yield in the north is a bit lower, he continues, which its later maturity may be responsible for.

“It is just behind Robigus on specific weight, but it has very useful resistance to rusts.”

Mr Waite also sees Invicta having a place in northern markets. “It brings useful diversity to the soft wheats and offers higher yields. It has a good disease profile, but as it’s a later type it shouldn’t be the only wheat grown on the farm.”

Warrior

Warrior 
Warrior has good all-round disease resistance, but lower yields.

Varieties with very good disease resistance but low yields haven’t been popular with growers in the past, so Warrior will only find a market niche, the seed trade summarises.

It joins the list with a specific recommendation for good disease resistance, but its yield of 100 and limited market options will be seen as disappointing.

Mr Barker says Warrior’s good septoria resistance could tempt growers in the west, especially if that saves costs. “If they find they can extend its yield potential, then it might fill a gap.”

Mr Bennett agrees. “It’s a good agronomic type and may work for growers who are trying to make savings. If it turns out not to need a T0 and a T3, as well as a blossom midge spray, it might suit them.”

Beluga

The new feed variety, Beluga, comes in as the highest yielding soft Group 4 at 105, putting it 2% ahead of Viscount.

A very encouraging reception from the distillers means Beluga should interest Scottish growers, says Dr Hoad.

“The yield is very high, it has stiff straw and a good rating from the distillers,” he says. “Those are all important characteristics up here.”

Beluga does appear to respond to fungicides, he adds, so getting the disease control programme right will be important. “It is susceptible to brown rust, but that’s not a problem in Scotland.”

He dismisses an initial concern that it may have below average resistance to sprouting. “It takes several years for sprouting ratings to settle. We know that sprouting can be site specific and there’s only limited data on this.”

Mr Waite says that there’s not much wrong with Beluga for the north. “It has a lower Hagberg than Viscount, so that’s something to be aware of in a difficult harvest.”

Mr Bennett can’t see Beluga being widely grown in the south, given its brown rust rating of 3. “And as the markets for it are distilling and bioethanol, it’s right for the north.”

Ms Self highlights its second-wheat performance and the fact that it has strong, stiff straw. “It’s very promising as a niche variety.”

Conqueror

Although Conqueror has been added to this year’s list, joining the hard Group 4 category, none of our experts could make much of a case for it.

“The problem is that it’s not as good as Oakley,” says Mr Bennett. “It has a 5 for yellow rust, but if that disease is a particular concern, you’d be better off going for JB Diego.”

Mr Barker can only see it achieving 1-2% market share. “It’s not an automatic replacement for Oakley and growers are likely to be looking for something more robust. So it has limited appeal.”

Ms Self says Conqueror will be a high input variety, but is pleased to see that it has orange wheat blossom midge resistance. “It has similar specific weight and standing power to Oakley,” she notes.

Click here for more from the HGCA Recommended List.