26 September 1997

Choice is made on end market, not rust rating

END markets rather than disease concerns are driving wheat variety choices this autumn.

That is the strong message from seed salesmen in the wake of revised yellow rust resistance ratings from the National Institute of Agricultural Botany.

Sales of NABIM group 1 and 2 varieties are booming, mainly at the expense of group 4 types, as buy-back contracts increase, say merchants.

Hard feed Brigadiers slip to a 1 rating for yellow rust resistance after widespread infection last season is having relatively little effect on overall sales, they maintain.

Seen a massive swing

"We have seen a massive swing to added-value varieties like Rialto and Charger," says Tim Hirst of Norfolk-based BDR Agriculture. Together with group 1 types they currently account for 44% of the firms wheat seed sales. "Last year it was a struggle to get to 20%."

Sales of Brigadier and Reaper (rust-rated 4) have reached only a quarter of last years totals. Again last springs problems with yellow rust do not seem to be a factor, he says.

Berks-based Philip Tarry for Banks Southern paints a similar picture. "Fifty-three % of our sales are in class 1 and 2 varieties which is a big increase on last year." But Brigadiers rust problems have had little to do with the move, he believes.

Both traders say Consort, with potentially better quality grain and a yellow rust rating of 8, is likely to take over from Riband as top-selling group 3 biscuit-making type.

"Technically aware" farmers are less concerned about rust than they are about standing power, hence the strong interest in Equinox which rates 4 against rust, says James Wallace of Peterborough-based Dalton Seeds. "But Brigadier will certainly take a knock."

&#8226 A disease rating of only 1 on the 1-9 scale puts a big question mark over Brigadiers future Recom-mended List status, acknowledges NIABs Richard Fenwick. "It will certainly be under review.

"My personal view is that it will still be widely grown this autumn. But growers in yellow rust susceptible areas ought to consider it as outclassed by other varieties such as Reaper, Equinox and newcomer Savannah which has a 5 for resistance."

Wheat choices are being driven by market use more than revised yellow rust resistance ratings, says the seed trade. Here Reaper is drilled at Edward Fords Lodge Farm, South Holmwood, Dorking, Surrey.

By Andrew Blake