Three new Recommended List candidate wheat varieties should help reverse the recent steep decline in popularity of Group 3 varieties, says Keith Best of KWS UK.

“There is hope on the horizon. At last we do have a genuine influx of new material, which can rectify the position,” he said at a press briefing last week to mark the launch of Viscount, the firm’s contender.

Nickerson’s Cassius and Senova’s Scout are the other two Group 3s in RL trials. KWS suggested Viscount could take up to 25% market share of plantings in autumn 2009.

Group 3 varieties had fallen back from over 50% market share in 2001/2 to just 20% this season, Mr Best noted. A further fall to 16% is predicted for next season. Group 4 feed wheats were now dominating the market, fuelled by high wheat prices and agronomic developments in the sector.

That expansion was putting UK export markets at risk, Sarah Nightingale of British Cereal Exports said. “It is a concern. BCE’s message to Cereals 08 will be for growers to look again at Group 3s.”

It made the “new blood” of Viscount, Cassius and Scout welcome, Mr Best said. Viscount seed production had been fast-tracked, so there would be enough seed to take about 4.5% share of the wheat market this autumn. But almost all of that had been snapped up by growers already, he admitted. “For anyone who hasn’t already got their name on some it will be difficult.”

There should be a little Cassius available this autumn, but Scout would not be available until autumn 2009, he added.

Viscount had the highest yields of the three in National List trials, Mark Dodds, KWS’s wheat breeder said. At 107% of the controls, it was 2% ahead of Cassius, 4% higher than Scout, and 6% more than Group 3 leader Robigus.

It is a very consistent variety. It has yielded well everywhere, including Scotland, so it is potentially good for the distilling market.”

Importantly, with Robigus as a parent, it is not susceptible to either rust, rating nine for each, while Septoria tritici is a six. The variety also has orange wheat blossom midge resistance.

Grain quality had been encouraging in testing, Mr Dodds said. “Two years of nabim evaluation for biscuit making looks promising, while there have been above-average spirit yields in trials with the Scottish Whisky Research Institute.”

Look again at Robigus?

Premiums of £8-10/t are available for growing Group 3 varieties, such as Robigus and Claire, next season, Mr Best said. “The market clearly needs more Group 3 than the 16% being talked about.”

With Viscount and Cassius seed production capping their market share at 5% for the coming autumn, growers would have to turn to Robigus, Claire and Zebedee to meet or exceed that expectation, he suggested.

“If grown properly Robigus will yield well,” he stressed. Growers would need to consider a rust-active seed treatment, such as Galmano, as well as a T0 and a main fungicide programme concentrating on controlling rust, he said.

The premiums available should encourage growers, Mike Jeffes, who provides agronomic advice to KWS, suggested. “At £10/t it is worth growing Robigus compared with almost anything else.”