Growers view wheat plots at Cereals 2014© Tim Scrivener

Winter wheat growers have switched to more disease-resistant varieties and those offering a premium after a season of high disease and low prices.

Varieties such as Skyfall and Evolution are this season’s big winners with Crusoe, Revelation and even Diego gaining, while Kielder and Santiago are the main losers.

Seed traders say growers looked at last season’s rampant disease levels and the sharp fall in grain prices and chosen wheat varieties that could cut production costs and offer a premium.

“Growers are looking at the cost of management, so Skyfall and Evolution are the big gainers this season,” Barry Barker, national arable seeds product manager at distributor Agrii, tells Farmers Weekly.

See also: Cereal disease threat may be worse than in ‘horrific’ 2014

Older feed variety Diego is still holds the top spot in the market for certified winter wheat seed taking a share of 17.2% up from 15.7% last season due to its consistency, bold grain sample and solid disease resistance apart from brown rust.

Certified seed sales make up about half the wheat seed market, with the rest made up of home-saved seed.

“With cashflows under pressure and a wheat price fall of £50/t between May and September, growers’ minds have been focused on low-risk varieties.”
Lee Bennett, Openfield

The next three most popular varieties are all new, namely Skyfall, Crusoe and Evolution which all offer good disease resistance, and the first two a likely milling premium.

All three score a moderately high 6 for resistance to wheat’s most damaging disease septoria, with virtually all wheat varieties on the HGCA Recommended List in a narrow band of 4 to 6 in an overall range stretching from a lowly 1 to a high 9.

“With cashflows under pressure and a wheat price fall of £50/t between May and September, growers’ minds have been focused on low-risk varieties,” says Lee Bennett, national seeds manager with farming co-operative Openfield.

He adds that Skyfall has shown impressive untreated fungicide yields, Crusoe has performed well nationwide, while growers have flocked to feed wheat Evolution for its strong yellow rust resistance.

Skyfall’s market share has jumped to 7% and Evolution’s to 6.7% in their first full year of wide availability from virtually zero, while Crusoe has moved to 6.7% from 4.4%.

“I don’t know a farmer who is unhappy with Crusoe,” says Mr Bennett.

Soft-milling feed wheat Revelation has also gained due to its good yield and disease resistance, although it is slightly late to mature.

The big losers are the two high-yielding feed wheat varieties Kielder and Santiago with the first sliding to 1.7% from 5.6% due to its susceptibility to yellow rust, while Santiago also slipped to 6.6% from 10.9%.

Winter wheat certified seed market share by variety (%)

 

Autumn 2014

Autumn 2013

Diego

17.2

15.7

Skyfall

7.0

0.2

Evolution

6.7

0.3

Crusoe

6.7

4.4

Santiago

6.6

10.9

Revelation

5.6

1.8

Leeds

5.5

3.4

Relay

4.8

 5.4