Wheat harvesting© Tim Scrivener

Wheat growers are moving sharply towards milling varieties, that are set to take 35% of the seed market attracted by price premiums and good disease resistance.

The big gainers this autumn are quality winter wheats such as Skyfall, Crusoe and Lili, while older feed varieties such as Diego and Santiago decline.

Skyfall is set to rival leader Diego for top spot in the commercial seed market with both winning about 13%, while Crusoe is at 12.5% and Lili 3.9%.

Barry Barker, national arable seed product manager at Agrii, says the key driver for variety choice is resistance to wheat’s most yield-sapping disease septoria.

See also: Short wheat with no awns blamed for poor disease resistance

“Growers are choosing varieties with good septoria resistance and also good milling quality,” he tells Farmers Weekly.

Agrii, which controls a fifth of the wheat seed market, says group 1 and 2 milling wheat varieties are set to take a 35% share, up from about a quarter last season, while the feed market share could be down to about 55%.

“We are seeing a 10% swing to group 1 and 2 varieties this season and away from hard feed wheats,” says Mr Barker.

Winners such as Skyfall, Crusoe and Lili all score 6 for septoria resistance in the AHDB Recommended List where all but one variety Cougar are scored between 4 and 6, with 1 poor resistance and 9 good resistance.

The big losers are likely to be old favourite Diego which has slipped to 13% as newer varieties yield more and Santiago, down to 3.6% due to poor disease resistance.

The big winner in the feed market is Reflection, which is taking a 10% share.

Another major seed supplier Frontier says Diego is still its bestseller, but closely followed by Skyfall, Crusoe and feed varieties Reflection and Revelation

“The trend is clearly towards better grain quality and disease resistance,” says Chris Piggott, seed commercial assistant at the group.

The farm co-operative Openfield, which traditionally is a big seller of milling wheat seed, says sales of these wheats have risen to as high as two-thirds of its sales.

Lee Bennett, the group’s national seeds manager, says its market this autumn is being dominated by Skyfall and Crusoe.

“There is a move to cleaner varieties and milling quality, and our two biggest winners are Skyfall and Crusoe,” he says.

From the group’s sales, these two milling varieties come out above Diego, and then another milling wheat Edgar, which are closely followed by four feed varieties Reflection, Revelation, Relay and Evolution.

Traders estimate the winter wheat area could be similar to last year’s at about 1.87m hectares, which itself was down 3.4% on the previous season, while certified seed makes up about 55% of the market with the rest being farm-saved seed.

Commercial winter wheat seed market shares

Variety

Autumn 2014      

Autumn 2015

Diego

16.9%

13.0%

Skyfall

6.7%

12.9%

Crusoe

6.7%

12.5%

Reflection

0.4%

10.0%

Revelation

5.5%                        

6.4%

Evolution

6.4%                        

5.2%

Lili

0.2%                        

3.9%

Santiago

6.5%                        

3.6%