20 June 1998

QUALITY WHEATS TO THE FORE

Seeds Day at NIAB, Cambridge, offers growers an early glimpse of the up-and-coming varieties of the future. Pencil the date – Tuesday, 30 June – in your diary. In this preview, we report on whats happening with yellow rust (p36) , and check out NIABs new seed testing packages for home-savers (p38). Below, Gilly Johnson asks NIAB cereal specialist Richard Fenwick how the new contenders for recommendation are shaping up.

ITS quality, not yield, that is the hot topic with wheats this season. NIABS Richard Fenwick welcomes this bias, because the milling, biscuit and distilling markets have been waiting a long time for varieties with convincingly better quality than old favourites Hereward and Riband.

On the Class I breadmaking front, there are three hard milling newcomers in the race. Two of these have the promise of top-class Group 1 breadmakers: Malacca (CPB Twyford) and Shamrock (bred by Sharpes International – to be sold under the Advanta Seeds label). Both varieties are rated 8 for breadmaking by NIAB – move over, Hereward?

Malacca has been on the market in advance of Recommended List decision making, and so the millers have already had a chance to try it out. Their verdict on Malacca is a provisional Group 1 classification – a vote of confidence that will boost its appeal.

But the industry shouldnt jump to conclusions because of Malaccas early success with seed sales. "It wont influence decisions as to inclusion on the Recommended List," points out Mr Fenwick. "As ever, that depends on whether a new variety can beat what is already on the List – though marketability is taken into account."

Agronomically, Malacca has everything that growers want in a milling wheat -its stiff-strawed, short and early to harvest. Breeder John Blackman suggests its well suited to very early drilling.

Yield is between 2-4% higher than Hereward. Grain quality is good, with very high hagberg. Specific weight is not quite up to Herewards standard – though samples should pass the 76 kg/hl mark reasonably comfortably.

Malacca benefits from a good fungicide programme; Septoria tritici rating is 5. So far, yellow rust resistance appears to be holding out well against all the known new races, but watch for more information from this seasons results.

It was sidelined by Abbot during its route through the testing system, which is the reason Malacca lags two years behind in terms of Recommended List status. But as it turns out, this variety may have the edge on yield and quality – particularly as Abbots performance was disappointing last season.

Tipped to be another Group 1 breadmaker, Shamrock will give Malacca a good run for its money. It also has the short, stiff attributes that make for easy management – if anything, its shorter than Hereward – more like a Brigadier type. Yield ratings are showing distinct advantage over both Malacca and Hereward, coming in with Riband-type performance.

High powered mildew resistance (rated 8), and broad-based yellow rust resistance (8) are complemented by a 6 against Septoria tritici. Its a little vulnerable to brown rust and eyespot. However, breadmaking types are not usually put into a second wheat slot, so eyespot susceptibility would not be as relevant, suggests Mr Fenwick.

Grain quality could be nudging ahead of Malacca; Shamrock has better specific weight and higher protein. Watch out for this variety in the field, says Mr Fenwick. "Its really attractive to look at – very green, and with a distinctive large flag leaf." According to the breeder, its green appeal was the reason behind the name.

Next in the breadmaking line-up is Shango (bred in France by PBI Cambridge). It doesnt show quite the class of the other two as regards milling potential (rated 7), but it could be attractive to smaller, specialist bakers, reckons Mr Fenwick.

Yield is again up at the Riband level. But Shango has taller and weaker straw than the other two, which may be a weakness. Disease resistance is possibly a reflection of its French breeding – although its good against the rusts, its susceptible to the UKs major problems: mildew and Septoria tritici.

Samples show large and bold grains with high hagbergs and moderate protein levels.

Hard wheat Aardvark (CPB Twyford) has some breadmaking quality (rated 6, it may just squeeze into Group 2 classification) and the odds are that samples would meet intervention standards. However, its major attraction must be superb all-round disease resistance – better than anything else on the Recommended List.

Aardvark is a Lynx cross (once sold as a no-spray variety), and it shows. Take note of an 8 for eyespot – might it be a candidate for a continuous wheat slot, post Agenda 2000? The breeder is not recommending Aardvark as a no fungicide wheat – but it could be a one-spray variety.

Lynx fell down on small grain size, but Aardvark shows better specific weight. However, growth regulator is required – standing power is a tad weak at 6. Yields are in the Brigadier category, not quite up in the Savannah league. The question is whether Aardvarks disease resistance might be worth a slight yield penalty?

Cantata (PBI Cambridge) was deferred last season for more information on breadmaking quality, which looked like being of Group 2 type. Protein score is a little low for comfort.

The odds on Cantata achieving the millers vote are not helped by the fact that the Group 2 section is becoming increasingly crowded. Rialto is the benchmark Group 2 type – and that has set high standards in yield and quality, says Mr Fenwick.

Cantata has Brigadier type yield; only moderate straw strength (rated 6); Septoria tritici is a weakness (4), and its short and early. It might make intervention, thanks to high Zeleny.

Together, two soft endosperm wheats from Nickerson UK could topple Riband from its dual role as leading biscuit/distilling variety. Claire is the biscuit contender. Might it prove more of a challenge to Riband than Consort did?

Certainly, yields are looking good – coming up to Brigadier levels. And importantly, the millers appear to like Claire better than Consort or Riband for biscuit grists, says Mr Fenwick.

Disease resistance is a significant improvement, bar mildew which would need watching (rated 5). Specific weight and hagberg are good, and would meet export standards. First response from the Spanish and Italian millers is positive.

Claire is moderately short, moderately stiff and moderately early – quite acceptable in England but not what Scottish growers would prefer. Thats where Buchan comes in.

This soft wheat is stiff and short – just like Riband. In fact Buchan is stiffer than Riband. And the distillers like it – which is crucial, because this is where most Scottish Riband ends up.

Yields are up to Brigadier levels, and disease resistance is good, bar a 4 rating for yellow rust. Buchan produces a bold grain with very high hagberg.

MALTING quality is always the key attribute with spring barleys for many growers. And two of the candidates arrive with top malting credentials – Decanter and Century, both from Nickerson UK.

Of the two, Century has the edge on quality. "Its shown the highest extract of any variety weve seen," says Mr Fenwick. Optic-type yields, stiff, short straw, excellent mildew and rhynchosporium resistance make it an attractive newcomer. It is susceptible to yellow rust. Although not quite as late to mature as Optic, Century might still be too late for comfort in the north-east region, suggests Mr Fenwick.

Decanter is earlier maturing than Century, similar to Chariot – possibly one for the north? Its a point ahead on yield, too. Malting quality is rated 9, and it appears suited to distilling. Hence the name.

"Decanter could replace Delibes and Prisma as a distilling barley," says Mr Fenwick. Straw strength is moderate – on par with Prisma. Rhynchosporium would need watching, but mildew resistance is excellent.

The third new barley, STATIC (New Farm Crops) scores on very high yield – better than Optic, and excellent disease resistance. But it doesnt have the top quality malting score of the other two – and so would effectively be classed as a feed.

That suggests Static should be compared against Hart and Riviera, which have a following in the west. "Static has shorter straw and so might not be as attractive to livestock producers," says Mr Fenwick.

POPULAR Regina faces a challenge. A similarly high yielding malting barley – Pearl (Nickerson UK) – is included in this seasons clutch of winter barley Recom-mended List contenders.

First indications are that malting quality is on par with Reginas. Both varieties have larger grains – some maltsters prefer small grained barleys, says Mr Fenwick.

Pearl isnt quite as stiff as Regina but earns a respectable 7 rating. But it does win out on disease resistance. Regina is weak against mildew; Pearl boasts an 8 against this disease. Its also not susceptible to yellow rust. Regina is, to a serious extent.

Yellow rust on barley has not proved a problem as yet, but with so much Regina now in the ground, plant pathologists are expecting this disease to reappear. If it does, Pearl would be an alternative.

The other three new barleys are all high yielding feed types. On performance, its always the six-row varieties that deliver the most. And Angela (Nickerson UK) is a new six-row thats giving yields better than six-row Muscat, the variety setting the current standard on the Recommended List.

Angela looks good agronomically as well. Despite being long, straw is stiff (rated 8) – a valuable trait in a six-row where the crop must carry a lot of weight, says Mr Fenwick. The long straw could be an advantage for livestock producers.

Add in better disease resistance profile including an 8 against mildew, and barley yellow mosaic virus (BaYMV) resistance, and the case for Angela stacks up. Its also earlier maturing than Muscat.

But there is a snag – and its one common to traditional six-row types: small grains. Here, Muscat wins out with its big bold sample. Although Angela is a step above older six-row, Manitou, as regards grain size, it might still prove a problem. Small grains limit the samples marketability, and can going over the back of the combine to reappear as volunteers the following season.

"It will be interesting to see if Angelas high yield and stiff straw can outweigh the disadvantage of a lower specific weight," says Mr Fenwick.

Back to the two-row feeds. A good-looking barley thanks to its Intro ancestry, Heligan (CPB Twyford) is a stiff strawed, bold grained high yielder to match Regina – but without the attraction of a potential malting premium. Good disease resistance is only marred by mildew susceptibility.

Flute (PBI Cambridge) is a few points behind on yield, but does offer exceptional disease resistance – possibly the highest score ever for any winter barley contender, says Mr Fenwick. Flute earns an 8 resistance rating against all the diseases.

"This has the makings of a low input variety, but youd have to accept slightly lower yields, better than Pastoral but not as good as Regina." Standing power and straw length are moderate.

Deferred from last season for more information on BaYMV, feed barley Baton (Advanta Seeds) comes up for consideration again this year.

Jewel and Gleam are the benchmark virus resistant barleys against which Baton will be compared – a tough challenge for this contender. Baton falls between the two on yield, and offers better resistance to net blotch and mildew. But Baton is fundamentally a feed variety with some low grade malting quality – Gleam enjoys IOB approval as a malting barley. Baton has stiff, moderately short straw.

"The real progress in winter barleys this season is in disease resistance," concludes Mr Fenwick. "In terms of yield, Regina still sets the standard."

Richard Fenwick: Early seed sales dont influence the Recommended List.

Regina under challenge from high yielding malting barley, Pearl.

BARLEYS LINE UP FOR 99