7 September 2001

Cereal troupers dominate

By Andrew Blake

NEW cereal varieties are set to take only limited areas this autumn, with stalwart wheats Claire, Consort and Malacca plus Pearl barley dominating certified seed orders.

The late wheat harvest also means seed suppliers are behind with processing, prompting calls for early ordering, whatever the variety.

Newly recommended winter wheat Tanker is almost all gone and Allied Grains Paul Brown says other list additions Deben, Xi19 and Option will soon run out.

Seed areas of new varieties are more restricted than in the past, so supplies tend to sell out quicker, says colleague David Waite. Such varieties had just 2% of the seed area each, apart from Option with 7%.

With many growers thoughts switching from harvest to sowing, Dalgetys sales are two weeks adrift of where they were last autumn, reports Julie Goult.

After a relatively easy and early barley harvest, barley seed stocks are readily available. But with winter wheat sowings expected to be up at least 30% on 2000/01, it could be hard to get seed onto all farms in time to meet required sowing dates, warns Peter Croot of Banks Cargill.

The main problem in the next couple of weeks will be haulage, he warns. Growers not ready to take deliveries could find supplies diverted elsewhere.

Variable quality from a wheat seed area reduced by about 30% last autumn is adding to trade difficulties and keeping prices firm, says Trevor Cope, of Prism group, which claims about 20% of the UK market. "We are having to reject a lot more seed parcels than normal – Id estimate 5-10%. Some have screenings too high to contemplate cleaning."

Prices are already £20-25/t up on last year, partly because of the rise in base wheat price. C2 single-purpose dressed Claire ranges from £230/t to £245/t, but much depends on order size.

With late-sown seed crops yielding poorly, supplies of some older varieties could become quite tight, warns Mr Brown. "Savannah and Equinox have just about gone."

Even some mainstream varieties could run out, Mr Cope believes. "Pearl accounts for three out of every five orders for winter barley and there isnt an infinite amount out there."

In Yorks, where Pearl and Regina dominate, the new two-row Sumo appears more popular than Siberia, says Fishers Seeds Paul Lacey. "But new barleys dont generate the interest new wheats do." &#42

Top seed output

Anticipating the expected rush for wheat seed, Banks Cargills new processing plant at Sandy in Beds recently turned out 400t in a single day – enough to drill over 4000ha (10,000 acres) at an early season sowing rate. A more normal sized seed plant would take half a week to do the same job, says the firms Peter Croot.

AUTUMNSEEDDEMAND

&#8226 Main choices little changed from 2000.

&#8226 Good demand for wheat newcomers.

&#8226 Processing delays from late harvest.

&#8226 Less interest in new barleys.