GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR GROUP 1s GROWERS URGED      

WHEAT GROWERS gambling on nabim Group 1 varieties sown this season should do all they can to ensure they achieve full breadmaking quality, advises Dalgety”s Mike Jeffes.

Seed certification figures suggest only 11% of this season”s crop has been sown to such types – down from 15% last harvest.

“Look after your Group 1s – they will be valuable, we think, whatever the weather,” says Mr Jeffes.

That means being prepared to supply enough nitrogen and spend money on T3 fungicides.

By contrast the share of Group 2 varieties has risen from 19% to 24% of the total drilled area, mainly because of Einstein sowings. At 15% the variety has more than doubled its 2004 share. “It”s massive.” That could undermine premiums, he believes.

Growers’ experiences with Malacca since 2001 show how tricky Group 1 production can be. Nearly three-quarters of the 2003 crop reached a reasonable standard, but only about a third did so in the other three seasons.

Although a hardcore of growers treating the variety correctly seem to be able to get good results, two-thirds of last year”s crop will be traded at 7/t less than full premium, he says.

The firm’s Co-Ordinated Growing Systems trials confirm how hard it is to get the nitrogen input right when grain-filling conditions cannot be forecast, he explains.

“The N requirement is hugely variable.” On heavy land in 2003 only 165kg/ha (132 units/acre) was needed for top spec samples. Last season over twice that was required.

Growing milling wheats is a gamble.” Taking into account their inherently lower yields, higher growing costs and potentially extra haulage costs, full spec samples must command premiums of at least 5-15/t, he estimates.

So where does that leave Group 2 producers this season? “If you have a mill on your doorstep, it may be worth aiming at 13% protein.”

Failing that the 11.5% export market might make more sense, he suggests. Last year”s Einstein results suggest many growers did not target top quality, regarding any premium as a bonus.

Solstice is probably a better quality bet, but it needs combining priority to preserve its Hagberg, he warns.

 “It won”t be sucked into Group 1, but its premiums won”t be far off.”

Cordiale with “bomb-proof” Hagberg lies between Einstein and Solstice on quality. andrew.blake@rbi.co.uk