Drilling winter wheat© Tim Scrivener

Two wheat varieties are set to be the big winners this autumn as growers swing towards milling varieties and away from feed and to those with good disease resistance.

Seed trade experts say wheat growers are looking at varieties to produce quality grain and which could be cheaper to grow to offset rising costs and low grain prices.

Milling varieties Skyfall and Siskin are the top sellers with the two biggest seed suppliers Agrii and Frontier, with the former variety looking to take overall top spot from long-time favourite, the feed variety Diego.

See also: Three wheat varieties to grow for a brighter future

Barry Barker, national arable seed product manager at Agrii, says these two best-selling varieties Skyfall and Siskin followed by new feed wheat varieties Graham and Costello.

Septoria resistance

Key with variety choice is often resistance to wheat most yield-damaging disease, septoria, with Siskin and Graham offering the best level of varietal resistance.

“Growers are looking at solid disease resistance with Siskin and Graham having good septoria resistance, Skyfall better than most and Costello also showing good quality grain,” Mr Barker tells Farmers Weekly.

He adds growers are moving from hard feed wheat such as Reflection towards milling wheats Skyfall and Siskin, and from soft feed wheats such as Revelation towards biscuitmaking wheats such as Barrel, Basset and Zulu.

Newer varieties such as Siskin and Graham, which entered the AHDB Recommended List last December, have a score of 7 for septoria resistance whereas Skyfall and Costello have 6s, in a 1-9 scale where 1 is low resistance  and 9 high.

Mr Barker is basing his views on the certified seed market, which makes up about 55% of the overall wheat seed market, with the rest being made up of farm-saved seed.

David Waite, northern seeds manager for Frontier, says Skyfall and Siskin leads its best-sellers list followed by three feed varieties Revelation, Diego, Evolution and then milling wheat Lili.

Cleaner varieties

He says wheat growers are looking for “cleaner” varieties with regard to disease resistance and those with grain which is very marketable.

“Many growers are looking at Lili and Siskin, as they have good disease resistance with no yield penalty and the chance of an export premium,” he says.

Both Lili and Siskin are Group 2 milling wheats, which means they can be used for blending and export, whereas Group 1 milling wheats such as Skyfall and Crusoe are primarily used for breadmaking.

In Scotland, Mr Waite says the soft-milling feed variety Leeds remains the number one choice with Revelation and also Viscount selling well, while Siskin and Lili are seeing good trade in southern Scotland.

This autumn’s wheat crop is expected to be about the same area as that drilled the previous autumn at some 1.83m hectare, although sowing may continue well into October and November.

Many growers are looking to delay drilling to give them a chance to kill off troublesome blackgrass so the drilling season could well be extended especially with the current dry autumn in eastern areas.

Seed trade estimates of winter wheat variety market shares


Autumn 2015

Autumn 2016

Group 1


Same/up slightly

Group 2


up 3-4%

Group 3


up 2%

Group 4 (soft)


down 3%

Group 4 (hard)


down 4%

  • Based on National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers 2015 figures.
  • Group 1 varieties include mainstream breadmakers such as Skyfall and Crusoe, Group 2s other potential milling wheats like Siskin and Lili, Group 3 biscuit makers such as Basset and Barrel, Group 4 (soft) feed wheats such as Leeds and Revelation, Group 4 (hard) feed wheats such as Reflection and Santiago.