26 October 2001

Feed wheats are best bet for late sowing

New advice could see a shift

in farm practice when it

comes to filling the late-

sown wheat slot this

autumn. Our latest baseline

advice gives you the facts

CONSIDER drilling a feed wheat after root crops instead of a milling-type and ensure seed rates take account of drilling conditions.

That is the advice cereal specialists have for growers trying to decide the best approach to the late-sowing slot.

Much will depend on seed availability and whether there are stocks already on the farm, acknowledges NIAB cereals expert Richard Fenwick.

"Growers essentially have three choices if they intend to follow roots with wheat. They can go for one of the quality varieties which attract a premium, plant a winter feed wheat or choose a spring wheat, but drill it in November."

Spring wheats planted before Christmas yield around 1.25t/ha over spring-sowing and suffer no quality penalty. In trials March-drilled spring wheat averaged 7.08t/ha, whereas November sowing gave 8.35t/ha. Grain protein was unchanged. But that may only be the second best approach.

Feed wheats best

New NIAB work shows feed wheats can give the best results. Late-drilling trials have assessed spring, quality and feed wheats for the past three years, crops going in on or around Nov 1.

"Its only in the last few years that the feed wheats have been included," notes Mr Fenwick. "And the results have been very interesting."

Although some varieties have been in a limited number of trials, the feed wheats have given a good yield benefit when drilled in November. The top three varieties for yield are Deben, Phlebas and Xi19, which also offers group 2 premium potential. Richmond, Biscay and Savannah also performed very well.

"Deben has yielded 113% of controls, whereas the best spring wheat Chablis did 104. So you would need a good reason to go for a spring wheat. Even with a good premium, it would be difficult to match winter feed returns."

Mr Fenwick stresses current feed wheats are very competitive when sown late in the autumn. "In the past, growers have tended to go for a quality wheat. But these trials suggest this could be the worst option."

Malacca topped the group 1 varieties with a yield of 101% of controls. Hereward achieved 98. "The spring wheats have done better," he says. "And there are a number of new spring wheats coming up for recommendation this year which have done 109% in these trials."

Other factors

As well as yield, growers have to consider their marketing options and variety portfolio, Mr Fenwick acknowledges. Soil type, seed-bed and weather also come into play.

"Soils in November are wet, so it is more difficult to create a seed-bed. And of course last year set new limits for everyone and taught many growers not to give up on winter wheats – crops drilled in January and February did surprisingly well."

A good choice for later drilling is Xi19, he advises. "It has yielded very well in our trials, it is definitely a group 2 and the straw is a bit weak for early drilling.

"But I would avoid Hereward, Soissons and Paragon. They havent performed in late drilled trials."

Yield penalty

At Dalgetys Throws Farm development centre trials work has focused on the relationship between sowing date, seed rate and variety for several years.

Technical development manager Mike Jeffes points out that growers can see as much as a 20% yield drop from late drilling.

"But so much depends on conditions. If its warm when the crop goes in and nothing holds it back, then the yield penalty may be negligible."

He adds there are clear varietal differences, with Consort suffering the greatest yield drop when sown late. "Weve recorded a drop from 118% to 97% and NIAB work showed a 36% fall. Consort is much better as an early wheat.

"Claire, on the other hand, is more plastic. It can be drilled either early or late and the yield wont suffer nearly as much."

His advice is to avoid varieties with a huge vernalisation requirement. "Option and Xi19 are good choices. They are both group 2 and can be sown right up until February, so offer flexibility.

"Malacca and Napier are other possibilities for different market outlets. But steer clear of Hereward and Consort."

Seed rates

Keep seed rates up when drilling in November, says Mr Jeffes. "Dont sow less than 300 seeds/sq m or 150kg/ha and I would use even higher rates if conditions arent good."

Dalgety work comparing three different seed rates has shown there are varietal differences with seed rate too.

"When we compared seed rates of 100, 200 and 300 seeds/sq m sown at the end of October, the yield of Consort dropped by 43% whereas the yield of Claire fell by only 17%. The penalty with Richmond was 27%."

Mr Jeffes believes the ADAS figure of 140 plants/sq m established for crops sown in November is too low. "Dont risk low seed rates with late drillings. It will be a false economy."

Seed treatment

Baytan (fuberidazole + triadimenol) is not appropriate with later drilled crops because it delays emergence, warns Mr Jeffes.

"Fusarium is more of a threat when seed-beds are cold and wet or when crops take a bit longer to get established, so a standard seed treatment is good insurance," he points out.

Jockey (fluquinconazole) can also be worthwhile. "ADAS data shows yield increases of up to 0.75t/ha when Jockey was used on second wheats drilled in November. It relieves the take-all burden." &#42

What will fill your drill for late sowing? NIABwork shows new feed and group 2 types could be a much better bet than traditional milling or early-sown spring varieties.

10-POINTPLAN

1 Spring wheats For best yields, sow before Christmas

2 Feed wheats NIAB trials show good yield results from November drillings

3 Quality wheats Performed the worst in NIAB trials, Malacca best of varieties

4 Variety Opt for Xi19, Deben and Option. Avoid Consort and Hereward

5 Seed-bed conditions Likely to worsen as season progresses so compensate with higher seed rates

6 Sowing date Most winter wheats can be safely sown until February

7 Yield penalty Can be as much as 20% with later sowings and there are varietal differences

8 Seed rate Dont sow less than 300 seeds/sq m and use 400 seeds/sq m where conditions are poor

9 Seed treatment Avoid Baytan but use standard product for fusarium

10 Take-all Reduced threat

with delayed drilling.