21 June 2002

Ditch Group 3 wheat obsession

By Edward Long

A FLOOD of Group 3 biscuit wheat, from what is expected to be a hefty cereal harvest, should prompt growers to rethink variety choice this autumn.

Either pursue outright yield with a Group 4 variety or pin down a worthwhile premium with a well managed Group 1 or 2 type, urges SCATS Agriproducts seeds director Tim Hirst.

"I cannot understand the obsession with Group 3 wheat. It seldom generates a premium and the chances of one this season are slim."

Growers to lose £10m

Paul Hickman of breeder Advanta echoes that sentiment, suggesting growers stand to lose over £10m due to the current oversupply of Group 3 wheats. "With buyers spoilt for choice and no premiums likely Group 3 wheats are the least profitable option and growers must look at alternatives."

Malaccas gross output can be £70/ha higher than Consort or Claire, Xi19 can be £100 more, and Group 2s Option, Chatsworth and Solstice can give £50/ha more, claims Mr Hirst.

But premium types must make spec. Half the Malacca samples tested by the company fail to reach 13% protein, because of yield dilution. Both it and Xi19 need careful nitrogen management to secure top returns.

"With up to £100/ha to play with there is scope to use a little more input to ensure optimum yield and quality."

According to NIAB about half the current crop was drilled with Group 3 varieties. "Consort and Claire have the lions share, Group 2s have 15%, the same as Group 1s, with feed types taking the remaining 20%," says NIABs Richard Fenwick.

"Group 3s have a 5% yield penalty compared with Group 4 varieties. In the recent past biscuit types generated a premium of £2-5/t, but with so much soft wheat to choose from after harvest hope of achieving such premiums will be pie-in-the-sky. But Group 3s are flexible as they suit a range of markets, so should find a home," he acknowledges.

UK imbalance

Emma Jackson of HGCAs British Cereal Exports wants more Group 2 wheat. "The imbalance in UK production is having a knock-on impact on potential exports," she says. More Group 2 grain would secure new opportunities overseas so relieving the domestic market.

With home consumption of 12mt and a 16mt crop expected, exports will need to top 4mt.

Robert Kerr of Glencore Grain, which handles 30% of the wheat shipped out of British ports, agrees. "There are two types of export market, one is price sensitive so wants mainly Group 3 and 4 grain, the other is quality driven.

"The quality market has the biggest potential for expansion and the higher the quality available the greater the demand. Breeders have produced Group 2 varieties with little, if any, yield penalty over feed, but the newer ones will have to prove themselves in the field." &#42